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Jerry Yang hired as fly on the wall at Lenovo

Hired for 'proven entrepreneurial spirit' to help PC company grow

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Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang is set to join the board of Lenovo.

Yang, who infamously turned down Microsoft’s $40bn buy-out offer back in 2009, will attend board meetings but only as an “observer” – in other words, he’ll have no voting rights.

Yang said in a statement that he would be sharing his experience as tech entrepreneur and innovator “as Lenovo looks at new areas of growth”.

“As Lenovo continues to build on its momentum and establish itself as a global technology leader, Jerry’s perspective, experience and proven entrepreneurial spirit will help us continue to drive growth and expand our business,” Lenovo boss Yang Yuanqing added in a statement.

According to analyst Gartner, Lenovo overtook HP in October last year to become the world’s biggest supplier, but as sales of traditional computing kit continue to slump globally its efforts have increasingly been focused on the mobile space. Gartner thinks that plan is going well enough to predict that firm will become China's biggest seller of smartphones this year.

Lenovo has also suggested it wants to position its ThinkPad range as an Apple-level premium brand.

Yang's experience building Yahoo! could therefore conceivably be of value if Lenovo decides to build out an Apple-like mobile ecosystem of its own. As its audience of mobile users grows, such a strategy would certainly make financial sense given the relatively high margins on offer for providers, or gatekeepers, of software and services.

As Bloomberg points out, Lenovo has already shown its hand with the purchase of US firm Stoneware – a move designed to build out its public cloud capabilities.

Jerry Yang’s arrival can also be seen in the context of a firm keen not to make the same mistakes as its domestic counterparts Huawei and ZTE, whose perceived lack of transparency and internationalisation have aroused suspicion among lawmakers in several key markets.

Yang’s appointment was preceded last month with the arrival as non-executive director of former ARM president Tudor Brown, and the majority of board positions at Lenovo are now filled by non-Chinese. ®

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