LONDON (Reuters) - Warren East, who led ARM Holdings from start-up to near monopoly designer of smartphone chips, with its processors at the heart of Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy, is to step down as chief executive after 12 years.
Group president Simon Segars will replace 51-year-old East from July, the British company said on Tuesday.
Since East, an engineer, joined in 1994, ARM has evolved from one processor product line to be the dominant player in mobile computing, providing microprocessors that run nearly all the world’s smartphones, and around a third of all consumer devices.
“After you’ve been doing it for 12 years you do get a bit tired (...) and think ‘Maybe that’s a bit of a brake on the business and somebody else should have a go’,” he told Reuters.
ARM licenses its processor designs to chipmakers including Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments. Its low-power processors have enabled it to dominate mobile computing, leaving rival Intel far behind in the sector.
In Cambridge, ARM has been at the heart of the so-called ‘Silicon Fen’, a cluster of high-tech firms at the southern tip of the English Fenland, about an hour’s drive north of London. Founded in 1990, ARM now employs 2,300 people, with 2013 revenues forecast at around $1.03 billion.
“We’ve built a global company based here in the UK, proving it can be done in technology, and I intend to do a bit more of that,” said East, who eschews the casual clothes and colorful style of California’s Silicon Valley in favor of smart suits and a sober manner.
East, whose total pay including share awards and long-term incentives was 7.6 million pounds in 2012, said it was too early to talk about his next move, but that another executive role was unlikely in the short term.
A pound invested in the company’s shares 10 years ago would be worth about 18 pounds now, and the company itself is valued at nearly 13 billion pounds ($19 billion).
Segars, who is 45, has been with ARM for 22 years next week, leading the development of many of its first processors and working in engineering, sales and business development.
He said he did not expect to make any significant changes to company strategy.
“The strategy that we have now I’ve been part of building and believe in very strongly,” he said.
He said ARM would keep growing in mobile computing and beyond, such as in providing technology to connect billions of devices ranging from appliances to vehicles, a concept known as the ‘Internet of Things’.
“We see big opportunities in servers - where we are just really getting started - and likewise in wireless infrastructure, which is going to go through quite radical changes to keep up with all the data that smartphones and the Internet of Things are going to produce and consume,” he said.
Shares in the company were down 2.2 percent at 900 pence by 10.16 a.m. ET, but analysts were comfortable with Segars as East’s successor.
“We do not believe that the choice of Mr Segars or the announcement is a significant surprise, though the timing is slightly earlier than we would have thought,” said UBS analysts.
East was well regarded by investors, but Segars had been effectively running most of the business as executive vice president and general manager of the processor business and was also positively seen in the investment community, they said.
Some 8.7 billion ARM-based chips were shipped last year, up from 420 million when East took over in 2001.
($1 = 0.6619 British pounds)
Editing by Will Waterman and Anna Willard