HTC CMO Departs Struggling Taiwanese Company

Sales Have Collapsed for the Once Reigning King of Smartphones

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HTC Chief Marketing Officer Ben Ho and President of Engineering and Operations Fred Liu have resigned from the Taiwanese smartphone maker, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Benjamin Ho
Benjamin Ho

Mr. Ho tendered his resignation to Chairman Cher Wang and remains at the company pending his departure by the end of this year, the people said, asking not to be identified because the announcement isn't public. Mr. Liu retired after 16 years at the company, said one of the people.

The exit of the senior executives continues a series of management changes at HTC that include replacing its finance chief in 2012 and the return of Ms. Wang to a more hands-on role at the company last year. HTC has posted 11 consecutive quarters of falling revenue amid increased competition and a cut in marketing spending.

Ms. Wang, who founded the company in 1997, has taken over the role of Chief Marketing Officer, the people said. Former Samsung Electronics Co. executive Paul Golden declined to stay at the company after a short-term contract as a marketing consulting, the people said. (Update: A spokesman for HTC said Ms. Wang has not taken over as CMO, but is "overseeing marketing as part of her role as executive Chairwoman." Mr. Ho is on a sabbatical, the company said.)

Separate calls to the offices of the executives weren't answered today. HTC public relations officials declined to immediately comment when contacted by Bloomberg News by phone today.

As recently as November 2011, HTC led the U.S. market share in smartphones with around a quarter of sales, but has seen its edge rapidly decline. In the first quarter of 2014, HTC claimed 6.1% of the U.S. market, following Apple, Samsung, LG and Motorola, according to Nielsen.

In March, the Taiwanese manufacturer launched the "Ask the Internet" campaign for its flagship HTC One smartphone, built around the device's glowing technology reviews. The spots were produced by Deutsch L.A., which HTC signed for its U.S. account. Ogilvy handles the global account.

Despite the praise for its new phones, sales have disappointed. Revenues for May fell by 27.4%, to $701.2 million. In April, Scott Croyle, the senior VP that lead the HTC One design, also left the company.

HTC reported marketing and sales expenses of $147.8 million in the first quarter. Its marketing and sales spending in 2013 declined 18.3% from the prior year.

~Bloomberg News with contributions from Ad Age's Mark Bergen