LONDON - 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 (AAPL) iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy, wistep down as chief executive after 12 years.
Current group president Simon Segars will replace 51-year-old East from July, the British company said Tuesday. East, who trained as an engineer, said it was time to move on but gave few clues on why he was leaving.
Since East joined in 1994, ARM has evolved from one processor product line to the world's dominant player in mobile computing, providing the microprocessors that run nearly all the world's smartphones, and around a third of all consumer devices.
"Obviously there's a part of me that would like to stay in this business forever, but we built the business with a team on the basis of collaborative thinking and planning far into the future," East said on a conference call with reporters.
"I believe now is the right time to bring in new leadership, somebody who can push the thinking even further forward and be sure to be around to implement those future plans."
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 (INTC) 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 favour of smart suits and a sober manner.
He said it was too early to talk about his next move, but that another executive role was unlikely in the short term.
"I will continue working in the technology space with businesses and other organisations, and I'm particularly looking forward to doing more of that in the UK," said East, whose total pay including share awards and long-term incentives was 7.6 million pounds in 2012.
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).
But the time had come for fresh leadership, chairman John Buchanan said.
"This is a long-term business, and the execution of ARM's strategy will take longer than he (East) personally wishes to see through," he said.
The 45-year-old Segars has also been with ARM since the early days, 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.
"I've been here almost the entire time that ARM has been in existence and worked in the management team for most of that time, and worked very closely with Warren developing the strategy that we are now executing," Segars said.
"You shouldn't really expect that that is going to change suddenly, because the strategy that we have now I've been part of building and believe in very strongly."
Shares in the company were down 2.6 percent at 896 pence by 0944 GMT, 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 analysts at UBS.
East was very 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.