Chinese tech giant Alibaba said Tuesday it will replace its top boss in a surprise move at the e-commerce titan as it looks to recover from years of slow growth caused weak consumer spending and a crackdown by authorities.
The move comes as the market leader prepares to undergo a fundamental reorganisation of its sprawling business operations, which span cloud computing, e-commerce, logistics, media and entertainment, and artificial intelligence.
Tuesday’s announcement will see chairman and CEO Daniel Zhang replaced by Joseph Tsai as chairman and Eddie Wu as CEO, the company said. Both appointments will take effect on September 10.
Zhang said in a statement it was “the right time” for him to step down as the firm looks to implement a full spin-off of its advanced cloud computing unit.
Following the executive transition, Zhang will continue to serve as chairman and CEO of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Group, the company said.
Incoming top boss Tsai said in a statement that Zhang had “demonstrated extraordinary leadership in navigating unprecedented uncertainties affecting our business over the past few years”.
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The firm has faced various new headwinds in recent years as Beijing imposed tighter restrictions on the domestic tech sector, while weak consumer spending saw it record its third consecutive quarter of single-digit revenue growth earlier this year.
In a shock announcement, Alibaba said in late March that it would split into six business groups — one of the most significant overhauls of a leading Chinese tech firm to date.
Zhang said at the time that the restructuring would give the individual business units the ability to pursue independent financing and public listing plans.
Under the new arrangement, each unit will be managed by its own CEO and board of directors.
The company has said it aims to achieve a “more nimble” structure in order to maintain competitiveness in the face of new regulatory challenges and mounting pressures on the global economy.
Alibaba was founded in 1999 by Jack Ma, who has kept a low profile since late 2020, when a speech he made attacking Chinese regulators was followed by Beijing pulling the plug on a planned IPO by Alibaba affiliate Ant Group.
A record fine of $2.75 billion was later imposed on the tech giant for alleged unfair business practices.
In January, Ant Group said Jack Ma no longer held controlling rights in the company — a move analysts speculated might have helped pull Ant and Alibaba out of the regulatory doghouse.