Ex-Arm Boss Quits SMIC’s Board as US-China Rift Widens

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Tudor Brown, the former president of Arm Ltd., has resigned from the board of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., stepping away from the Chinese chipmaker that has been hit with US sanctions.

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Brown, a celebrated engineer who was part of Arm’s founding, is leaving SMIC after nine years on its board. He disclosed the move on his LinkedIn page. SMIC also confirmed the departure in an exchange filing.

“Bitter sweet day today. After 9 years I resigned from SMIC board. The international divide has further widened,” he wrote.

Brown, who’s also a director at top Chinese PC maker Lenovo Group Ltd., was a key executive at Arm from 1990 till May 2012, according to this LinkedIn profile. That was before SoftBank Group Corp. acquired the British firm in 2016.

Brown said he’s leaving SMIC partly because it is getting increasingly difficult for him to carry out his duties being unable to travel to China for more than two years.

“It just became too hard to carry on having those board meetings in the middle of the night without seeing people in person,” he said in an interview on Thursday.

SMIC is among a raft of Chinese semiconductor manufacturers contending with steadily tightening US export restrictions as Washington tries to contain Beijing’s technological rise. That’s on top of rapidly crumbling global electronics demand, as consumers leave a pandemic-era boom behind.

In response, homegrown firms have attempted to develop alternatives to American silicon. The Shanghai-based contract chipmaker has succeeded in advancing its production technology two generations this year to 7-nanometers, though industry experts caution that may not be based on the same standards employed by far larger rivals like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

Brown is the latest of several individuals with UK or US nationality to have left SMIC’s board since the end of 2020, including Jason Cong, Chiang Shang-yi and Konrad Young.

A Lenovo representative confirmed Brown remains on that company’s board.

(Updates with comments from Brown, SMIC and Lenovo)

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