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Sharp President Tai drops hints on successor

Electronics maker is looking for youthful Japanese to take the reins

OSAKA -- Sharp President Tai Jeng-wu is searching inside and outside the company for a Japanese person to step into his shoes.

Tai formally took the helm of the Japanese electronics maker in August last year. He is the right-hand man of Terry Gou, chairman of Taiwanese contract electronics manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as Foxconn.

In an interview on Tuesday, in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, Tai said his ideal successor will be "60-year-old or younger." He has previously said that he will return to Taiwan when Sharp relists on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Tai also said Sharp will double down on smartphone camera parts, vowing to double its capacity in smartphone camera modules. The move comes as Apple plans to put high-performance cameras in its iPhones.

Q: You once said that you will resign when Sharp returns to the first section of the TSE. What are you looking for in a successor?

A: I am looking for candidates, both within the company and outside, all the time. My successor needs to be trained. At the end of the day, I will consider my successor together with Hon Hai Chairman Terry Gou.

Q:What are the requirements for your successor?

A: I want to consider someone who can keep Sharp afloat over the next century. As things stand now, I am considering a Japanese national to become Sharp's next president.

Sharp President Tai Jeng-wu

Q: Why Japanese?

A: Terry Gou and I both give top priority to localization. We shouldn't have to go out of our way to dispatch people from Taiwan. They do not have enough knowledge of local matters and speak a different language. I myself have been involved with Japan for the past 40 years. But I am still a poor speaker of Japanese. I want to nurture local personnel.

Q: Will Sharp's new president have to have a good understanding of Hon Hai?

A: That's why whoever becomes the next president needs training. There is much talk about the drain of personnel from Sharp. I want to explain. I'll give you one example. I once tried to train a [Japanese] executive as the next head of the internet of things communication [business unit]. I proposed sending the executive to Hon Hai for six months so that he could learn about [Hon Hai's] culture, but he quit.

He should have kept working hard for the future of Sharp. We cannot make a Japanese national Sharp's president in a short period of time. I came to Sharp with a strong sense of responsibility. I have not returned to Hon Hai's headquarters for the past seven months. Anybody in a managerial post should have such a strong attachment to the company. The people Sharp is seeking are Internet of Things-savvy. Even those in managerial posts must have sufficient knowledge of technical matters. Many people may have different explanations [for why people are leaving Sharp].

Q: Is age an important factor in choosing your successor?

A: If possible, I want my successor to be 60 years old or younger. Otherwise, my successor will not be able to stay in the post for a long time.

Q: Is having a background in engineering or sales important?

A: Background doesn't matter, [but] best candidate is someone with enough experience in sales. That's because Sharp will now have to go on the offensive, instead of being on the defensive.

Interviewed by Nikkei staff writers Jun Iiyama and Emi Okada

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