Alibaba is replacing Daniel Chang as CEO and president of the Chinese e-commerce giant, and a senior aide to its former boss, Jack Ma, is set to take over.
The company announced Tuesday that Eddie Youngming Wu, co-founder of Alibaba and head of Alibaba’s two leading e-commerce sites Taobao and Tmall, will replace Zhang as CEO in September. Wu served as a special assistant between 2014 and 2019. Joseph Tsai, Alibaba co-founder and vice president, will fill in for Zhang as chairman of the board.
The leadership changes come at a critical time for Alibaba after it announced plans to dismantle its technology empire in March and refocus on its e-commerce roots.
Alibaba will pursue separate listings of its logistics and grocery businesses over the next 18 months and spin off its cloud division.
Zhang, who served as chairman for eight years, is set to remain in charge of the cloud unit, which he took over in December as it struggled to sustain growth. “This is the right time for me to make a transition, given the importance of the Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Group as it progresses toward a full split,” Zhang said in a statement.
Investors greeted the news cautiously. Alibaba shares, which fell about 2 percent before the announcement, pared losses to end about 1.5 percent lower at the close in Hong Kong on Tuesday. By comparison, the Hang Seng Tech Index, which tracks Alibaba and its peers in the Chinese tech sector, was down 2.5 percent.
Wu became the technical director of Alibaba in 1999, after joining from Jack Ma’s previous project China Pages, where he worked after graduating from Zhejiang University of Technology. Later, he was the chief technology officer of payment platform Alipay, and then at Taobao.
Wu led the launch of shopping app Taobao, which quickly became an important part of Chinese consumers’ daily shopping habits. He will continue to serve as president of Tmall and Taobao.
“Eddie is a trusted pair of hands Tao Ali Baba.
A person close to the company’s management said, “Eddie is more calm and analytical. He’s not quite as outgoing as Jack Ma. But with Alibaba becoming a holding company for these companies, you need someone who can think strategically about how they fit together rather than someone who leads from the front.” .
Wu’s appointment raises the possibility of Ma’s deeper involvement once again in Alibaba’s management. The couple is very close, according to people who know them both. Ma currently sits on the Alibaba Partnership Committee, which sets the company’s direction but does not hold an official position in the company.
In March, Ma returned to Hangzhou where Alibaba is headquartered to help oversee the break-up of the group. At the end of May, he called in senior executives from its e-commerce business to talk strategy and chart a path forward amid China’s increasingly competitive environment, according to Chinese media reports.
He warned participants that Alibaba could go the way of former industry giants Nokia and Kodak and urged them to refocus on developing Taobao, the e-commerce platform for smaller and medium-sized merchants.
Zhang’s job running the Chinese conglomerate has been difficult and complicated by Ma’s entanglement with Beijing, which led to the cancellation of Ant Group’s flagship IPO more than two years ago.
Since then, Alibaba has issued a record $2.8 billion antitrust fine and ceded market share in its core e-commerce business to new rivals such as Pinduoduo and ByteDance’s Douyin.
Zhang said he will now seek to boost cloud business by “making cloud computing and AI more accessible to businesses of all sizes and industries.”
While the group’s annual sales have risen 11 times and profits nearly tripled since the beginning of Zhang’s tenure, Alibaba’s share price is nearly flat.
Additional reporting by Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong
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