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Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. chairman Terry Gou attended an event at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) early on the morning of April 16 to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act.

Before heading inside, in response to persistent questioning by members of the media about whether he has decided to run for president, Gou let it slip that he might participate in the Kuomintang (KMT) party’s presidential primary.

Spreading rapidly over online media and television news, word of Gou’s response stunned all of Taiwan, as people wondered if the rumors of Taiwan’s richest man perhaps becoming president were true.

Speaking to CommonWealth, an unnamed source familiar with the inner workings at Hon Hai revealed that Terry Gou first toyed with running for the presidency after such atypical politicians as U.S. president Donald Trump and Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu defied expectations to win their respective races.

“Terry Gou is a very proud man,” relates the source. This explains why Gou remained mum about his intentions at first, being careful to first set the stage for a run behind the scenes, starting with Facebook and LINE fan pages in January and March, respectively, as a platform for airing his views on national issues and take the pulse of the potential reception. A team was even established inside Hon Hai to conduct public opinion polls and test the waters for a prospective run.

Once again surrounded by media during a break during the meeting on the sixteenth, Gou began speaking at length, addressing issues “at the presidential level.” As the atmosphere began to resemble a campaign speech, a reporter suddenly asked, “Chairman Gou, could you really let go of Hon Hai?”

Photo by Chien-Ying Chiu

“That’s a great question,” he answered seriously before proceeding to share an anecdote he had never spoken about before, about the late Formosa Plastics Chairman Wang Yung-ching, the “god of management”.

Learning to Let Go Allows Staff to Learn and Grow

“I once spoke with Chairman Wang,” he said. “You might not know this, but Wang had retreated to the second line by then.” In 2006, two years before his death, Wang Yung-ching retreated to the second line with his brother, Wang Yung-tsai, handing over decision-making authority over the Formosa Plastics Group to a seven-member policy team.

Gou believes that he planted the seed with advice he gave Wang, relating that the Qianlong Emperor’s 60-year reign was a key contributor to the decline of the Qing dynasty. Therefore, one should hand responsibility over to younger people.

Changing course, he spoke about the executives at his own company, saying, “I trained them and have worked with them for 40 years. I need to learn how to let go so they can learn and grow.”

Judging from Gou’s public pronouncements, a potential presidential run is still in the long-term consideration stage. However, “letting go” and “stepping back to the second line” appear to be inevitable.

According to the Public Official Property Reporting Act, publicly listed and over-the-counter stocks held by a presidential candidate (including spouse and minor children) must be placed in a trust and reported within three months of the inauguration date. Should Gou’s 1.33 million shares of Hon Hai stock all be entered into a trust, he would not risk losing his eligibility as CEO of Hon Hai Precision.

That said, general popular sentiment could become an issue if the nation’s top official were also at the helm of a large corporation. Should Gou decide to declare his candidacy, he would surely have to distance himself from Hon Hai to a certain degree.

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  • Eftakher Alam
    Eftakher Alam
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