Wolfson's founder and chief Milne to step down

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David Milne will retire as chief executive of Wolfson Microelectronics next year after nearly three decades at the helm of the semiconductor developer. His departure signals a new direction for the company after it nominated the industry veteran Dave Shrigley as his replacement.

Mr Shrigley has big shoes to fill as Mr Milne is synonymous with Wolfson's success. After founding the company in 1978 and spinning it out of the Wolfson Institute of Edinburgh University in the 1980s, he has led the transformation of the company from a small technology consultancy into a global leader in semiconductor design. It contributes technology to a variety of electronic products, most notably Apple's iPod.

Dan Ridsdale, an analyst with Bridgewell Securities, said: "David Milne has played a key role in Wolfson's success. His drive, his confidence and his belief in the technology have been essential to its growth and that will be missed."

Mr Milne said he had always planned to retire next year and that with the company preparing to develop its business beyond its core strength in audio-based technology, it was a good time to move on. Mr Milne, who has climbed Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn in the Alps, will look to spend more time mountaineering.

Nevertheless, he said retirement was a tough decision to make and that he remains interested in developing his career at other companies. "Something happens when you sign the contract. You realise there is no going back," he said.

Mr Milne led the flotation of Wolfson in 2003, raising £340m. It subsequently enjoyed stunning growth as sales of gadgets such as the iPod, the Sony PSP and the Xbox 360 picked up but a profits warning in September wiped 40 per cent off the company's value. Mr Milne will remain on the board once he stands down from the role in March next year. The 64-year-old will hand over the reins to Mr Shrigley, who spent 18 years as an executive of Intel before a stint at Nortel. While at Intel he led the roll-out of the pentium processor.

Analysts said they did not believe Mr Milne's departure related to the profits warning earlier this year but expressed concern that Mr Shrigley has never held a position as a chief executive.