Arm wrests back control of its rogue China limb

Ouster of rebel CEO should clear path for planned Arm IPO


Updated SoftBank-owned chip designer Arm has regained control of its Chinese joint venture.

The Chinese arm (as it were) has been of concern since June 2020 when CEO Alan Wu was fired over conflicts of interest. But Wu refused to go or to hand over the documents that would allow the appointment of a new leader.

SoftBank owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, and as a minority stakeholder could not order Wu’s removal.

The Japanese tech investment giant nonetheless wanted Wu to go, as Arm China's uncertain status made it hard for the firm to launch an initial public offering of Arm. That was its fallback plan after a planned sale of the chip design biz to Nvidia collapsed (a misfortune Wu welcomed).

Wu's stance had also created negative publicity, with one semiconductor analyst labelling Arm China as "completely rogue" and Wu as having conducted a "heist" of Arm's IP. As Chinese firms credibly stand accused of stealing and repurposing IP from around the world, those allegations were not fanciful. However Arm China was set up as the major commercial distribution channel for Arm to license its IP to Chinese licensees. The Chinese company was also permitted to develop its own IP for the local market.

Today, newswires Nikkei and Reuters both report that Wu has been removed.

Chinese outlet ijiwei.com has also reported the news, the day after it carried a story in which Wu said rumored moves to have him replaced were illegal and reports to that effect were using foreign media as a catspaw to slur him.

SoftBank execs have reportedly been appointed as Arm China's senior officers.

The Register has sought comment from Arm, Arm China, and SoftBank, to confirm the situation and will update this story if we receive substantive comment. ®

Updated to add at 2200 UTC, April 29

Arm HQ has sent the following statement sent to The Register:

Arm China has resolved its longstanding corporate governance issue as its Board of Directors has voted unanimously to appoint Liu Renchen and Eric Chen as Arm China's co-CEOs. As a result, the relevant agency in Shenzhen has registered Dr. Liu as the company's legal representative and general manager, and duly issued a new chop and business license to Dr. Liu.

The "company chop" referred to above is akin to a seal as it allows the holder to sign official company documents. Wu retained Arm China's chop, giving his claim to CEO status a certain credibility. The issuance of a new chop is a definitive transfer of authority to the new management.

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