October 24, 2013, 4:26 PM

Alibaba creates a U.S. e-commerce investment group

China’s leading e-commerce operator creates a U.S. investment group.

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China’s leading e-commerce company, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., has established a U.S. investment group to back entrepreneurs working on e-commerce and emerging technologies, it announced this week. Already in recent months, Alibaba has financed three U.S. web businesses, including sports merchandise seller Fanatics, membership-based free two-day shipping provider (and Amazon Prime competitor) ShopRunner and mobile search technology company Quixey.

“Alibaba is taking the commerce war to the U.S. front in its global battle against Amazon,” says R. “Ray” Wang, principal analyst and CEO at business advisory firm Constellation Research. “The goal is to tap into the innovation of the U.S. tech scenes in New York and Silicon Valley.”

Michael Zeisser will lead Alibaba’s new San Francisco-based team as chairman of U.S. investments. Zeisser spent the last decade at Liberty Media Corp., where he held executive positions in digital media and e-commerce, Alibaba says. He has also, according to his LinkedIn profile, served as a chairman, advisor or board member for more than a dozen Internet companies, including Shutterfly Inc., No. 14 in the 2013 Top 500 Guide; XO Group Inc., No. 477; and Backcountry.com and Provide Commerce, both units of No. 5, Liberty Interactive Corp. along with Liberty’s primary e-commerce properties, QVC and ProFlowers.

“Alibaba is run by entrepreneurs, and we believe in supporting entrepreneurs with great vision and a strong sense of mission for their companies,” says Joe Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba and head of Alibaba’s strategic investments. “We are extremely excited to have someone of Michael’s caliber and experience to lead our investment efforts in the U.S.”

Alibaba, which operates China’s dominant online retail marketplaces Taobao and Tmall and is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Asia 500, has said it intends to go public in the near future. Having failed to get approval from Hong Kong regulators for an ownership structure that would keep management in control of the company, Alibaba is expected to conduct its initial public offering on a stock exchange in the United States.

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