LONDON -- David Milne, who has announced he will retire from all executive duties from Wolfson Microelectronics , the company he co-founded in 1984, has no intention of leaving the business world entirely, nor even the semiconductors business, he told EE Times Europe . But he said Wolfson needed someone younger at the helm to take the company to the next stage of its development, which he stressed does not mean a different direction.
"I always said I wished to leave when reaching 65, though I will remain on the board and work part time advising the company. And although nothing is planned so far, I would like to continue working in industry , even perhaps in the electronics sector, if people think I have something to offer," Milne said.
In this Milne is being rather modest, as his track record is a phenomenal one, building up Wolfson into a company with revenues of over $210 million a year and steering the group through its listing on the London Stock Exchange in 2003. His customers for analog and mixed signal chips for portable devices reads like a 'who-is-who' of the global consumer electronics sector, and the Edinburgh based company has grown steadily from a chip design house to an international business.
"Building up a company from just a few enthusiasts to one with 340 people now, with most in Scotland and in Swindon designing new products and technologies and about 60 in the very important Far East market, has been extremely satisfying. Of course we could have grown faster, could have been more profitable at times along the way, but I would say our economics are great and so are our design processes and devices, as proven by the increasing design wins and awards we have received, notably in the past few years," said Milne.
He said he can see what needs to be done to move the company to the next stage and make it a half a million dollar turnover company, and the changes in style of management to a more formal manner, "but that could take five years and I would not have time to implement and execute fully on that strategy…better to let someone else make that."
Asked whether he regretted not making any acquisitions along the way with the accumulated cash, Milne said he was always on the look-out for design teams but growing 'pseudo organically' has worked well, adding design expertise as and when needed. The company has expanded sales and to some extent local engineering support in countries such as India, Turkey and mostly in China, Japan and the Far East, but stressed that while there are good design opportunities in countries like China for mixed signal and analog, "this is not really creative design . That still is still best done in the West."
Milne added he has always kept an open mind about picking up small mixed-signal and analog design groups and believes the company will continue to do so. "But I doubt we would leave the sector of mixed-signal in which we have built such a strong reputation and customer base. There are still huge growth opportunities there with the technologies we have and are developing, and can continue to develop."
On the question of larger deals, "we are not really interested in big transformational acquisitions that would perhaps double our turnover, even if the banks and financial institutions are often recommending that we should consider that. But as of now we don't have the management to cope with such a move."