UK based Imagination Technologies has been through a rocky few years. Shortly after unveiling its "massive step" in mobile GPUs with the Power VR Furian in March 2017, its UK share price was torpedoed (70 per cent drop at market opening) by Apple signalling that it wouldn't need IMG IP any more, as it was going to develop in house GPUs for its A-Series SoCs.
Very soon after that share-quaking event it looked like Apple had indulged in a bit of skulduggery, as it began to hire IMG engineers and set up its own GPU development offices very near Imagination Tech's HQ in Hertfordshire. However, by September IMG was given a lifeline when a Chinese-backed investment firm by the name of Canyon Bridge raised $1.5bn to buy the ailing firm. With its newfound stability, Imagination has gone on to launch its 10th Gen A-Series GPUs and secured another big contract with Apple in January 2020, signing a multi-year license agreement. However, tensions in the management team have been bubbling under the surface and we have just started to see some cracks appear.
Sky News reports that Steve Evans, chief product officer, and John Rayfield, chief technical officer, both quit Imagination Technologies early last week. These high-level resignations come just a couple of days after chief executive Ron Black departed. That is effectively a third of Imagination's executive management team leaving within hours of each other.
It is reported that Rayfield's resignation letter stated "I will not be part of a company that is effectively controlled by the Chinese government." The resignations appear to have been precipitated by an event last week. The news source says that China Reform Holdings attempted to nominate a number of directors to the company board. Later, the changes were called off as senior UK MPs voiced concerns over the "redomiciling of prized British intellectual property". With the board appointments now effectively cancelled Mr Evans and Mr Rayfield may be amenable to returning to Imagination.
The BBC has some further background about the situation and quotes from senior government figures about Imagination Technologies. It seems that Theresa May's government approved the acquisition on the basis that Canyon Bridge was licensed and regulated by US law - but Canyon Bridge (owned by a Chinese state-owned investment fund called China Reform) subsequently moved its HQ from the US to autonomous British Overseas Territory the Cayman Islands. It is worried this move is just a stepping stone to less US/UK oversight and the IP ending up being China state controlled.