Most Americans probably are not intimately familiar with Huawei (pronounced "Wa-way," as if Gilda Radner of Saturday Night Live fame were asked to pronounce the name). The company's founder, Ren Zhengfei is a former officer of the People's Liberation Army.
Tough to know what to make of that. When it comes to speaking with the press, Ren is a regular Greta Garbo. A mini-profile Forbes ran three years ago noted that many of Huawei's major customers are state-run businesses in China. And while Ren owns 1 percent of the company, the rest belongs to an unidentified "union."
Meanwhile, Ren has gone about building Huawei into a success story disregarding the usual corporate niceties. In 2000--three years before the WMD craze got us all nutso about taking out Saddam--the CIA accused Huawei of secretly selling a communications system to Iraq. In the final report of the Iraq Survey Group, Huawei and two other Chinese companies were singled out for carrying out "extensive work in and around Baghdad"--mainly telecommunication switches and the installation of fiber-optic cable.
Then in 2003, Cisco socked Huawei with a patent infringement lawsuit. Cisco claimed Huawei ripped off its intellectual property to make a lineup of routers and switches. Huawei denied the allegations though in the end caved.
But if at all possible, business doesn't let politics intrude. So it is that Friday we learned that Bain Capital is paying $2.2 billion to acquire 3Com. Part of the deal involves China's Huawei Technologies, which will acquire a minority stake in 3Com.
And, oh, by the way, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor running for the Republican presidential nomination--he headed Bain Capital for 14 years.
Six degrees of separation. In this case only 2--but who's counting.
I wonder whether a future President Romney might have commented on Huawei figuring in a major U.S. tech acquisition. I'm darned sure candidate Romney has since turned off his cell phone for an early start to the weekend.