Zhao Weiguo, the former chairman of the Chinese semiconductor company Tsinghua Unigroup, was transferred to the procuratorate for investigation and prosecution on suspicion of duty-related crimes, China’s top supervision watchdog reported on March 20.
According to a statement released on the official website of the National Commission of Supervision, Zhao, as a manager of a state-owned enterprise, misused public assets for personal gain. He was allegedly involved in illicitly transferring profitable businesses to friends and relatives for operation, as well as purchasing commodities from companies managed by friends and relatives at prices significantly higher than market rates. Additionally, he was accused of instigating directors of listed companies to act against the interests of the company, leading to substantial losses borne by the state.
In 1988, Tsinghua University founded the Tsinghua University Sci-Tech General Company, which was the university’s first comprehensive school-run operation focused on technological achievements and served as the precursor to Tsinghua Unigroup. Today, Tsinghua Unigroup has emerged as China’s largest integrated circuit company and the third-largest smartphone chip company worldwide.
Born in 1967 in Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in northwest China, Zhao enrolled in the Department of Electronic Engineering at Tsinghua University in 1985. After graduating in 1996, he joined Tsinghua Unigroup as the deputy general manager of the automation engineering division. From 2002, Zhao diversified into energy and real estate, establishing Beijing Jiankun Investment Group in 2005. He acquired a 35.3% stake in Tsinghua Unigroup in 2010, which later increased to 49%.
During Zhao’s tenure, Tsinghua Unigroup expanded rapidly through a series of acquisitions. Its assets reached a peak of 297.8 billion yuan ($43 billion) in 2019. At that time, Tsinghua Unigroup’s subsidiaries spanned various fields, including smartphone chips, memory chips, chip manufacturing, packaging, and testing.
However, with the rapid expansion, Tsinghua Unigroup faced debt defaults. In November 2020, creditors initiated bankruptcy proceedings against the company. It is noteworthy that Zhao vehemently opposed the reorganization plan and questioned the potential loss of state-owned assets. However, he ultimately voted in favor of the plan four days after expressing his concerns.
After several rounds of bidding, Tsinghua Unigroup announced in April 2022 that the consortium of Wise Road Capital and JAC Capital had become its strategic investor, and all shares held by Jiankun Group had been divested. According to a report by Yicai, in response to Tsinghua Unigroup’s bankruptcy, Zhao Weiguo said in April 2021, “Thank you, I don’t care anymore.”
On July 11, 2022, Tsinghua Unigroup announced that 100% of its equity had been transferred to Beijing Zhiguangxin Holdings Co., Ltd. Li Bin, the controller of Wise Road Capital, took over as the chairman and general manager of Tsinghua Unigroup, replacing Zhao.