Imagination's senior executives quit over potential Chinese coup

April 13, 2020 // By Peter Clarke
Imagination's senior executives quit over potential Chinese coup
Ron Black, CEO of GPU licensor Imagination, and two of his senior C-level executives have reportedly resigned, apparently in protest over China's move to take control of the company.

Black had threatened to resign a week before over moves by China Reform Holdings to nominate four directors to the company (see Management threat stalls China's Imagination coup). The UK government had also been tipped off and issued warnings but the net result was simply a postponement of an emergency board meeting.

However, the row has resulted in the  Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS), a Washington watchdog that approves or blocks US takeovers, launching an urgent probe into Canyon Bridge Partners, the private equity firm that owns Imagination, and the intentions of its main investor China Reform Holdings, which in turn administers Chinese government funds.

Now Black has gone and been replaced as interim CEO by Ray Bingham, former CFO and CEO of Cadence Design Systems Inc. Bingham is also the cofounder and partner at Canyon Bridge, which bought Imagination for about $550 million in 2017.

Sky News now reports that Steve Evans, chief product officer, and John Rayfield, chief technical officer, have both quit – although they are still listed in position on Imagination's website. "I will not be part of a company that is effectively controlled by the Chinese government," Sky News quotes Evans saying in his resignation letter.

Sky News added that, according to sources, both Evans and Rayfield had indicated they would reconsider their resignations if the Chinese takeover was abandoned.

Imagination licenses cores to Apple and others, but suffered a financial crisis in 2017 when Apple started to design their own GPUs. The management at the time decided the only option was to sell the company off and the buyer was the Chinese-backed Canyon Bridge.

Evans was with Imagination at the time but subsequently left before rejoining in August 2019 having spent a year with Frontier Smart Technologies Group Ltd., according to his LinkedIn biography. He had previously been with Imagination in October 2017 he would have been aware of the Chinese ownership of Imagination when he rejoined. Similarly, Rayfield, who joined Imagination in October 2019.

Related links and articles:

www.imgtec.com

Sky News article

News articles:

Management threat stalls China's Imagination coup

After moves on ARM, China tries Imagination coup

ARM gets a rival as AMD licenses graphics IP to Samsung

Apple able to use more Imagination IP under renewed deal

Imagination, MIPS to be sold to China-, California-connected VCs


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