van Houten is to become COO of Philips, and is nominated as the next CEO when Gerard Kleisterlee, the current CEO, retires in March next year.
What goes around comes around.
18 months ago, around Christmastime 2008, the New York private equity company Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts (KKR) had ousted van Houten as CEO of NXP Semiconductors.
KKR has bought NXP from Philips at an excessive valuation of $11 billion just as the semiconductor industry went into a vicious down-cycle exacerbated by the credit crunch.
KKR had loaded up NXP with a crippling $6 billion of debt, and NXP was haemorrhaging cash.
van Houten got his marching orders.
But Philips, its coffers swollen with the lavish proceeds of the NXP sale, did not forget that van Houten had looked after them.
van Houten had extracted a fabulous price for NXP from KKR, and Philips was grateful for this unexpectedly munificent cash contribution.
Later on, van Houten demonstrated his deal-making skills again by extracting $1.6 billion from ST-Ericsson for NXP’s wireless business.
This was done at a time when Freescale was trying, and failing, to find a buyer for its wireless business. In the end Freescale folded the operation.
So Philips have got themselves a master deal-maker to head up the company. In a company which did one of the greatest deals of the century when it co-founded TSMC with the Taiwan government, deal-making is highly valued as, indeed, it is across Holland – a country renowned for centuries for its deal-making nous.