Huawei Execs Take Turns as Acting CEOs

There's speculation afoot that Huawei is setting up a succession strategy, following the release of a year-end message from CEO Ren Zhengfei to the company's employees.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, and Reuters on Wednesday, that the message describes executives taking turns running the company's day-to-day operations. The role sounds a lot like that of a chief operating officer but with some CEO duties added.

This structure replaces the Executive Management Team (EMT) that Huawei created some years ago, Reuters reported Wednesday. The EMT was a bench of eight executives operating behind Ren, with the executives taking turns chairing the EMT for six months at a time, the Journal quotes Ren's memos as saying.

Huawei ended the EMT this year but has continued the rotation, with the executives taking turn as "acting CEOs." That's how Ren phrased it, according to Reuters's translation of his memo.

Ren's note also discloses two cancer surgeries he underwent years ago, according to the news reports. So, while there's no indication Ren's health is anything but good, both news reports consider the possiblity that Huawei is starting to think about a succession plan.

Lack of an obvious successor was one reason why the EMT was created in the first place. Huawei once hired some U.S. consultants who "found it inconceivable" that Huawei had no succession structure, the Journal quotes Ren's memo as saying.

News of the memo comes as Huawei pushes ahead with its new enterprise-focused growth strategy and continues its efforts to become a trusted supplier of technology in the U.S. market. (See Huawei, ZTE Probed by Intelligence Agency, Huawei's Enterprise Vision Gets Cloudy, Huawei's Open Letter to the US, Huawei Aims for $100B Annual Revenues and 2011 Top Ten: Huawei Mini-Dramas.)

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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