10 CEOs who made a difference in 2010
12/13/2010 12:01 AM EST
Gou keeps Foxconn ahead of the newshounds
Chief executives are no strangers to managing through bad news cycles, especially during downturns, but in 2010 Foxconn Technology Group's Terry Tai-Ming Gou has shepherded his company through a tough year in which the bad news has had nothing to do with sales or profits.
Gou cofounded Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd. in 1974 to make cheap plastic parts for TVs. From that humble start, Hon Hai, whose public face is the Foxconn brand, has grown to become the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer (CEM), with 2010 sales expected to come in at NT$3 trillion ($98.4 billion), up from NT$1.96 trillion ($64 billion) in 2009. Hon Hai OEMs the iPhone and iPad for Apple, along with products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Sony and countless others.
But Foxconn is battling an image problem that surfaced in January, when a 19-year-old male employee was found dead of an apparent suicide at a Foxconn facility in Shenzhen, China. A string of suicides followed among the company's Chinese staff. On at least two occasions, Gou raised salaries sharply in China in response to criticism of the company's practices. Just last month, however, another Chinese employee was said to have committed suicide, bringing the total number of presumed suicides to 13, and workers at a Foxconn factory in the southern Chinese city of Foshan staged a massive protest over pay.
Further embarrassment was heaped on Gou's company in recent weeks when press reports surfaced that Fei Lam, a 17-year-old New York er, had made about $130,000 by selling white housing conversion kits for black iPhones at $279 apiece (Apple isn't due to release a white version until next year). Lam is alleged to have sourced some parts illegally from Foxconn factories in China, a claim Foxconn denies.
None of this has stalled Foxconn's growth. It recently opened a factory in Chengdu that is ramping up iPad production; according to reports, the new Chinese fab will manufacture a new version of the popular tablet.
And in 2011, Foxconn will account for 50 percent of total CEM sales worldwide, according to iSuppli.
— Mark LaPedus