(Image courtesy of Lattice Semiconductor).

Chief Executive of Lattice Semiconductor to Retire

March 14, 2018
Chief Executive of Lattice Semiconductor to Retire

In September, an order signed by President Donald Trump snuffed out Lattice Semiconductor’s $1.3 billion sale to an investment firm with ties to the Chinese government. The firm, Canyon Bridge Partners, landed another company within weeks, but Lattice has had to recollect its struggling business.

Now changes are coming to its leadership. On Monday, the company said that Darin Billerbeck, its chief executive since 2010, would step down at the end of the week. Glen Hawk, the programmable chip maker’s chief operating officer, will take his place while the board of directors looks for a permanent replacement.

The composition of the board that will replace Billerbeck also changed recently after pressure from activist investor Lion Point Capital, which owns about 6.2 percent of Lattice’s shares. The Portland, Oregon-based Lattice recently agreed to install three new directors selected by the New York hedge fund to its eight-person board.

The company gave no indication that Billerbeck’s retirement was related to Lion Point’s successful bid to expand Lattice’s board. The company said that the 58-year-old Billerbeck would step down from the board and chief executive post on Friday but remain employed to help with the transition until May 31.

“I am proud of all that we have accomplished during my tenure, and look forward to working with Glen to ensure a seamless transition as Lattice continues to drive a return to revenue and profitability growth, improve its cost structure, and build shareholder value,” said Billerbeck, a former chief executive officer at Zilog, in a statement.

In February, Lion Point disclosed that it was looking to nominate directors to Lattice’s board. The company has struggled in recent years. It reported revenues of $386 million last year, down from $427.1 million in the previous year, despite its growing business of FPGA chips used in computing, industrial and automotive applications. Last year, the company posted a $71 million loss.

The new directors include James Lederer, a former vice president of Qualcomm Technologies; John Major, the chairman of Broadcom before it was sold to Avago in 2015; and Krishna Rangasayee, the former vice president of sales for Xilinx and now chief operating officer of a machine learning hardware startup.

The changes come in the wake of the company’s blocked sale to Canyon Bridge, which is funded by the Chinese government through a series of nested investment firms. The Treasury Department was concerned that the company’s chips could be redesigned and used in missile defense systems and satellites. President Trump blocked the deal.

After the deal was blocked, Canyon Bridge bought Imagination Technologies for $742.5 million in September with plans to spread the company’s graphics processors into the Chinese market. The buyout firm was founded by Benjamin Chow and former Cadence chief executive officer Ray Bingham in 2016.

In October, Chow was charged for insider trading and securities fraud by officials in the Southern District of New York. He was accused of sending tips to a former colleague in Beijing as he negotiated with Lattice. The scheme resulted in a windfall of about $5 million for his colleague. Chow faces up to 30 years in prison.

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