The “A” in AST Research, Albert C. Wong, will resign this week as co-chairman and executive vice president of the personal computer manufacturer, the firm said Tuesday.
Wong, one of three immigrants who co-founded AST in 1980 with $50,000 they raised by mortgaging their homes, is stepping down to pursue “personal, non-competitive interests,” according to a statement prepared by the Irvine company.
“It’s an amicable separation,” said Safi U. Qureshey, AST co-chairman and president. “There was no big disagreement or anything like that. After 8 years in the business, Albert just wants to take some time off. He’s going to spend some time with his family.”
Qureshey said he knows of no plans by Wong to start a new business. Wong was not available for comment Tuesday. AST’s statement that Wong will pursue “non-competitive” interests indicates that he has no plans to start up a rival firm or go to work for one.
Wong’s resignation is effective Friday. He will remain a company director.
AST was founded by Wong, 39, Qureshey, 37, and Thomas C.K. Yuen, 37, all of whom came to the United States to study engineering. Qureshey and Yuen met while both were employees at Computer Automation in Irvine, and later teamed up with Wong, who formerly worked for two other Orange County firms, Datum Inc. and Technology Marketing Inc.
AST got its start in July, 1980, as a maker of printed-circuit boards that boosted the memory and other features of International Business Machines’ first personal computer. In 1987, the firm entered the crowded personal computer field with its own line of machines, and its rapid success surprised skeptics.
Headed by Albert, Safi and Tom, as employees often refer to them, AST has become one of the leading sellers of personal computers and related products. Sales grew from $71,000 in 1981 to $206 million for the year ended June 30. The company’s payroll has grown from its original three founders to more than 2,000 people today.
Over the years, the three founders--each of whom owns about 17% of the publicly held company’s stock--have played distinct roles within the company.
Wong, a native of Hong Kong, has primarily been responsible for overseeing AST’s engineering staff and worldwide manufacturing operations. Yuen, an executive vice president, will take over Wong’s manufacturing duties, and Qureshey will assume responsibility for engineering.
Qureshey said the company has no plans to replace Wong.
“Albert was always the guy who was behind the scenes getting things done,” one former AST manager said. “Tom was the marketing guy, and Safi was the philosophical one. When Safi and Tom would come up with a dream for what they wanted to do, Albert was the one who figured out a path for getting there.”
Wong, described as a “quiet, reserved” man who studied engineering at Cal State Fullerton, has maintained the lowest profile of the three founders. Qureshey, a Pakistani, is AST’s chief spokesman to the media and the investment community. Yuen, a Hong Kong native, is the firm’s chief marketeer.
Qureshey said the three founders are close personal friends and “will continue to be” after Wong leaves. “We’ve stayed together for 8 years, and AST has come a long way in that time,” he said.
Employees said the founders’ closeness was reflected in their car-buying habits. Oftentimes when one of the three would buy a new car--usually an exotic sports car--one or both of the others followed. Earlier this year, Wong and Yuen both purchased expensive Ferraris within days of one another.