Tech boss East shocks the City with Arm exit

THE HEAD of the UK’s most successful listed technology firm has announced a surprise departure after 12 years at the helm.

Warren East, the chief executive of Cambridge-based chip designer Arm Holdings, said yesterday he would step down to be replaced by company president Simon Segars.

Under East’s leadership Arm has been transformed into a global giant that designs the chips used in the vast majority of the world’s smartphones and tablets, including Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and profits have risen more than fivefold. Following news of his departure, shares in the FTSE 100 firm fell by almost three per cent.

East, 51, told City A.M. he was stepping down so that Segars could lead Arm through new challenges during the next 10 years. “It’s about timing, we’re a very long term business and it’s about fuelling growth into 2020 and beyond,” East said. “If you’re going to move you want to do so when the business is healthy and it’s very healthy at the moment.”

Having established dominance in designing smartphone and tablet chips, Arm is targeting growth via the growing demand for microprocessors in internet-connected everyday objects such as thermostats and streetlights – the so-called internet of things.

Segars, whose new position moves him from ARM’s US base in San Jose, California to the firm’s headquarters off the M11, said he would not be making any immediate changes. “I have worked with Warren for a decade plus, I feel the strategy we have is right,” he said.

East said that he doesn’t have any immediate plans, although he intends to remain in the technology sector in the UK. He said he is “absolutely in no way” interested in the vacant chief executive role at Intel, the chipmaking giant that poses the biggest threat to Arm.

Intel has made repeated pushes into Arm territory and has appeared to be making some progress, with its technology being used in Motorola’s recently-released Razr smartphone.

When East took over Arm in 2001, it had revenues of £146m compared to 2012’s £577m.