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Imagination Tech's chief Hossein Yassaie quits, shares slide

Longest serving British tech CEO walks the plank

One of the longest-serving tech chiefs in the world, Imagination Technologies’ CEO Sir Hossein Yassaie, has stepped down, with non-exec director Andrew Heath filling his shoes as interim chief.

Yassaie headed the British semiconductor company for 18 years. After establishing a global toehold with its PowerVR (formerly VideoLogic) graphics chips in the mid-1990s, Imagination would reap a reward for betting on powerful mobile graphics chips at a time when the mass market didn’t see any need for them.

Imagination claims more than a billion devices have been shipped with Imagination’s chips (or IP) inside. A windfall from digital radio chipsets was to prove short-lived, however. The Pure DAB unit was a personal project of the CEO, but it’s bled red ink in recent years, and has finally been put up for sale.

The company had 1,700 employees worldwide as of last year.

Imagination’s success with high volume, high profile customers such as Apple and Samsung in a fast-changing market inevitably risked some volatility. Imagination was clobbered in 2013 when its revenue fell by a fifth, and the share price hasn’t recovered since. Intel sold its stake in Imagination the following year.

The spread of its bets can be gauged from its CES announcements, with work on IoT, wearables, and other radio comms tech, such as LTE, much in evidence.

Yassaie has been a vocal critic of multinational tax avoidance, and some 70 per cent of the company's 1,000 staff are employed in the UK.

“We have built Imagination from very small beginnings into the leading provider of graphics processors as well as general purpose micro-processors and connectivity solutions. Imagination is now one of the genuine UK-headquartered companies with significant global influence and impact,” said Yassaie in a farewell statement.

The board says it’s now on the hunt for a full-time CEO. Shares this morning opened 14 per cent down on Friday's closing price after the news broke. ®

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