HTC loses chief product officer amid a wave of departures

LAS VEGAS--The troubles for HTC continue as the company acknowledged that its chief product officer has left the company, the most high-profile departure in a stream of executives and employees who have left recently.

Both The Verge and AllThingsD reported that Chief Product Officer Kouji Kodera has left the company. He joined HTC in 2010 from Sony Ericsson. "Kouji Kodera has left HTC to pursue other interests," HTC said in a statement to AllThingsD. "We appreciate his contributions and wish him all the best. Scott Croyle will take over his duties." Croyle was previously vice president of design. CNET Asia reported that HTC Asia CEO Lennard Hoornik has also left.

Kodera's departure comes after Jason Gordon, HTC's vice president of global communications, announced via Twitter that he had stepped down on Friday after seven years with the company. According to the Wall Street Journal, HTC said CMO Benjamin Ho will take over Gordon's duties until a successor is found.

As The Verge noted, there are other recent departures, including Global Retail Marketing Manager Rebecca Rowland, Director of Digital Marketing John Starkweather and Product Strategy Manager Eric Lin. Lin, who left for Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Skype unit, even, took to Twitter to urge fellow HTC employees to leave as well, telling them to "just quit. leave now. it's tough to do, but you'll be so much happier, I swear." In a follow-up tweet, Lin added that "I didn't leave for a competitor or a carrier or something. just I don't miss the place, only the people."

The Verge painted a dire picture inside HTC. "Anyone who's heard of them in Seattle doesn't want to go work for them right now. They're like T-Mobile two years ago," one unnamed source said. "They're in utter freefall."

HTC has been struggling to reign traction in the smartphone market it once dominated, and it has placed a major bet on the One, its flagship smartphone that went on sale in April. Earlier this month HTC executives sidled past the company's record-low profit for the first quarter and instead looked ahead to the future, predicting sales will rise almost two-thirds sequentially in the second quarter thanks to sales of the One. HTC has indicated that sales are gaining steam and that it will boost production capacity to meet higher demand.

HTC has increased its marketing spending to promote the One amid heavy competition from Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S4, which Samsung crowed would hit 10 million shipments this week less than a month after going on sale. HTC also tried to gain notice by producing the First, the first smartphone running Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) Home for Android user interface. However, The Verge reported that, according unnamed sources, the phone has not sold well, especially after Facebook made Home a downloadable app the same week the First went on sale. There have been rumors that AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) may discontinue sales of the phone, but the carrier has not confirmed that.

Like many handset makers, HTC has a minimal presence here at the CTIA Wireless 2013 conference. The company has a meeting room and had a booth at the Mobile Focus event, where it showed off the design process needed to carve the One from a block of aluminum.

For more:
- see this The Verge article
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this CNET article

Special Report: Visit CTIALive for complete CTIA Wireless 2013 coverage

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