Foxconn is planning to replace many of its workers with a million robots over the next three years, but replacing chairman and CEO Terry Gou will require a bit more thought. So the world’s largest electronics manufacturer has taken the rather elaborate step of founding a think tank to find Gou’s successor, according to the Taiwanese newspaper Economic Daily News, as reported by Reuters.
Gou, 63, has said he plans to retire but hasn’t specified when. As the face of Hon Hai (Foxconn’s official name), he is consider key to the company’s success at wining clients like Apple and Hewlett-Packard. Observers worry that without him, the company will struggle to keep those orders. As one of the first to identify and harness China’s manufacturing potential in the 1990s, he’s been compared to Henry Ford. But he has also been criticized for his company’s poor treatment of workers, cited as a cause of a spate of suicides at Foxconn factories in China.
The question of who can fill his shoes isn’t just a problem at Foxconn. At least 12 of Taiwan’s largest corporations are facing succession problems. Sophia Cheng, former head of of research for Merrill Lynch in Taiwan has said that a major part of her judgement of a company’s shares is how well the firm has prepared its second generation for the eventual leadership succession.