Qualcomm's ex-CEO departs board, mulls taking company private

Paul Jacobs may launch a bid to take over Qualcomm, which his father co-founded.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
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Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm's former CEO, will leave the company's board as he considers taking Qualcomm private. 


Qualcomm's corporate chaos continues.

Paul Jacobs, the company's former CEO, will be leaving Qualcomm's board as of its annual meeting on March 23. That's because he's looking at buying out the company his father, Irwin Jacobs, co-founded, Qualcomm said.

"There can be no assurance that Dr. Jacobs can or will make a proposal, but, if he does, the board will of course evaluate it consistent with its fiduciary duties to shareholders," Qualcomm said in a press release. 

Qualcomm declined to comment beyond its press release. Jacobs didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Going private could give Qualcomm some advantages. The San Diego-based company is the world's largest maker of chips and processors for phones, but it has been going through some turmoil over the past few months. Not having to answer to public shareholders could give Qualcomm time to sort out its legal problems and focus on the next generations of mobile technology. 

But it's unlikely Jacobs will succeed in taking Qualcomm private, The Wall Street Journal reported. Jacobs owns less than 1 percent of the company, which is valued at about $90 billion. Launching an offer for Qualcomm would require backers with deep pockets. 

Rival Broadcom, the Singapore-based maker of chips for everything from cable modems to set-top boxes to digital video recorders, announced an unsolicited bid of $130 billion for Qualcomm in November, but Qualcomm didn't believe the deal price was high enough. The bid fell apart this week after President Donald Trump signed an executive order blocking the merger. Broadcom subsequently dropped its acquisition offer.

At the same time, Qualcomm has been facing legal battles around the world over its licensing practices. Apple, one of its biggest customers, has accused Qualcomm of offering unfair licensing terms for its technology. Qualcomm responded by suing Apple for patent infringement and seeking a ban on iPhone sales. The company maintains that no modern handset -- including the iPhone -- would have been possible without its cellular technologies.

Jacobs has worked for Qualcomm since 1990. He served as CEO from July 2005 to March 2014 and had been on the board since June 2005. Jacobs' most recent roles at Qualcomm were board chairman, which he held from March 2009 until earlier this month, and executive chairman, which he held from March 2014 to earlier this month. Qualcomm replaced Jacobs with independent director Jeffrey Henderson as chairman of the board, and it eliminated the role of executive chairman in response to the Broadcom takeover struggle. 

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