5 surprises from our interview with Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei
Rosa Hwang, CTV National News Executive Producer
Published Friday, March 15, 2019 10:00PM EDT
As billionaires go, Ren Zhengfei is an enigma. He built his high-tech empire, but has kept a very low profile. CTV National News was granted rare access inside Huawei headquarters for an interview with the reclusive CEO and founder.
Here are five revelations from Ren’s interview with Chief Anchor Lisa LaFlamme.
1. He hates the company’s name
Roughly translated, the word Huawei means “Chinese achievement." While he wouldn’t say how he came up with the name more than 30 years ago, Ren admits to CTV News it’s never been his favourite, even as it has grown into a global, billion-dollar brand.
“After I created this business and registered the company, I didn’t like the name,” he said, “I didn’t like the sound of it. But we bought our licence and couldn’t change it because we were penniless.”
2. Meng Wanzhou wanted to quit
A month before her December arrest in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition order, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou wanted out.
“She was not happy working here,” Ren told Lisa LaFlamme. “But after being arrested, this matter improved our relationship and now she understands how difficult life can be.”
Ren claims his daughter has developed a tougher skin as a result of her legal troubles and she has now changed her mind about leaving.
3. Meng won’t be his successor
Meng Wanzhou is not only Ren’s oldest daughter, she is the most senior female executive at Huawei. Yet her father does not see her as CEO material.
“She has always been a manager and a manager is good at managing a wide span of issues,” Ren said. “But for a leader, you need to have a strong vertical ability. You need to be able to see things happening in 10 or 20 years… she won’t be a successor because she doesn’t have this background.”
4. The black swans are a myth
Ren regularly quotes proverbs and is known to be big on symbolism. It’s widely reported that he insisted on the black swans that roam Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen and swim in a specially-designated lake to send a message to employees about complacency – a constant reminder that disaster lurks, even in success. But when asked about the legend of the black swans, he threw cold water on the story.
“I don’t like the black swans. I dislike them because they always eat the flowers and grass,” he said. “It has nothing to do with me.” Ren also said he prefers ducks.
5. His family prefers the iPhone
Ren said that while he sticks to Huawei phones, his family members use iPhones. He also called Apple founder, the late Steve Jobs, “a great man who changed human society."