According to Sky News CEO Ron Black and other senior executives were on the brink of quitting over a power grab by China Reform Holdings although it is reported that Imagination has been talking with multiple potential backers over recent months to try and obtain funds for an expansion drive.
It seems that tighter Chinese control of the UK-based GPU licensing would have been the price of significant investment that was being sought from China Reform Holdings. And a price unacceptable to Black and other senior executives.
Imagination Technologies is owned by Canyon Bridge, a private equity firm whose main investor is Beijing-backed China Reform Holdings, which in turn administers Chinese government funds.
As such the passing of Imagination from its own shareholders – Imagination was listed in the UK until its business hit trouble in 2017 – to Canyon Bridge and then on to more direct Chinese control can be seen as part of an engineered process. Canyon Bridge also moved its headquarters from California to the Cayman Islands after its failure to buy Lattice Semiconductor.
Sky News reported that Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary in the UK government, had been informed of the cancellation of the Imagination board meeting, after concern was raised in the UK government (see After moves on ARM, China tries Imagination coup).
The report added that Dowden is seeking a meeting with Ray Bingham, executive chairman at Imagination and a partner at Canyon Bridge Capital Partners.
The decision to abandon the meeting leaves Ron Black in place as CEO but the likelihood of tension between him and the chairman at the top of the company. It also leaves Imagination without the additional funds it was seeking to finance its future.
Meanwhile Imagination continues to be a supplier of GPU designs to Apple and Samsung in the smartphone sector. That may not continue for long as Apple is designing its own GPUs and Samsung licenses GPU designs from many sources including ARM and AMD.
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