Lenovo makes key hires for growth

Computer maker appoints Yahoo founder alongside other industry players in a bid to boost firm's strategic thinking and direction

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 February, 2013, 4:52am

Lenovo is entering its next phase as a consumer electronics market leader by bolstering support for its senior management.

The world's second-largest supplier of personal computers last week named Jerry Yang, the co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo, as a "board observer".

Yang Yuanqing, the chairman and chief executive of Lenovo, said: "Jerry's appointment as an observer to our board furthers Lenovo's reputation as a transparent international company."

That followed the addition of Tudor Brown as a non-executive director to Lenovo's roster of seasoned veterans. Brown is one of the founders of ARM, the major British semiconductor design company.

"We believe that they will add a great deal to our strategic thinking, long-term direction and, ultimately, our ability to achieve our aspirations in the PC plus era," Lenovo's Yang said.

Lenovo described this "PC plus era" as an expansion of devices used by consumers and companies to access the internet. For the company, these included smartphones, media tablets, online-ready "smart" television and "smart" tables.

It is a long-term strategy that can only succeed with a management structure supported by well-known industry leaders.

Gianfranco Lanci, the former chief executive of Taiwanese rival Acer, was designated the head of Lenovo's Europe, Middle East and Africa operations in January last year.

In 2011, retired Sony chairman and chief executive Nobuyuki Idei had been named as an independent non-executive director.

Efforts to make Lenovo's management more transparent with key appointments have helped the company advance its expansion strategy more aggressively over the years, compared with other high-profile Chinese information technology companies.

Telecommunications equipment manufacturers Huawei Technologies and ZTE, for example, have seen their separate growth initiatives in the United States stunted due to suspicion about murky ties with mainland China's military complex.

In 2005, Lenovo successfully completed its US$1.75 billion acquisition of International Business Machines' (IBM) personal computer division and installed Stephen Ward as chief executive. Yang Yuanqing, who was the head of Lenovo prior to that acquisition, took on the role of chairman to pave the way for Ward, who was the head of that division at IBM.

Midway during that transition of Lenovo into a global personal computer supplier, Ward was replaced by former Dell Asia-Pacific president William Amelio.

In February 2009, Yang reassumed the role of chief executive to drive one of the company's busiest periods for expansion in big markets such as Japan, Europe and Brazil.

Former IBM executive Rory Read served as Lenovo's president and chief operating officer under Yang, but left in August 2011 to become chief executive at chipmaker AMD. Read's appointment to that role helped serve notice to the industry that Lenovo had established a deep roster of senior executives.

Newly named board observer Jerry Yang said: "I believe that Lenovo's strong leadership team, coupled with their innovative strategy positions them well for continued success as a global leader in technology."

By April this year, Lenovo is expected to complete its latest corporate restructuring. Its mainstream consumer and commercial Idea-brand computers, media tablets, smartphones and "smart" TVs will fall under the Lenovo Business Group.

The premium Think-brand consumer and commercial personal computers, servers and storage systems will be under the Think Business Group.

Lenovo's share price closed at HK$8.51 last Friday.