Liu Chuanzhi developed his entrepreneurial instincts at a relatively advanced age; he was 40 when he left the Chinese Academy of Sciences, with 10 engineers and Rmb200,000 ($25,000) of cash, to found Legend in 1984. The company made its early money selling Chinese language cards for computers.
Back then, PC makers needed a license from the Ministry of Electronics, and only two firms (Inspur and Great Wall) had them. So Liu built his own models in Hong Kong. After successfully showing his machine at the Hanover Electronics Technology Fair, he was able to move back to China.
Need to know
Legend listed in Hong Kong and changed its name to Lenovo in 2004. The same year it also bought IBM’s PC division and Liu retired in triumph. But the post-acquisition integration proved tough, culminating in Lenovo’s first full year loss last year of $256 million.
Liu – known locally as the Godfather of Entrepreneurs – returned to the chairman role this year to turn things around. It’s the Chinese equivalent of Steve Jobs returning to Apple.
He has known tough times before?
Yes, in 1994 he faced a dual challenge: a battle with Meniere’s Syndrome (which affects balance) and an onslaught of competition from foreign PC makers. He reorganised the PC division and regained market share from foreign brands within two years. This time round, he is reorganising again: with a new management built around four expatriates executives and four Chinese.
In his own words
“We intend to reshape our management framework to truly fit Lenovo. The firm stands at a turning point, but one year from now you will see a positive result.”
And to relax
Liu likes reading and playing golf. He also loves watching football and in 2000 even considered ‘doing an Abramovich’ and buying a professional football team – although he thought better of it.
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