China’s Alibaba Group names a new CEO

Executive vice president Jonathan Lu Zhaoxi takes over from Jack Ma.

Paul Demery

Alibaba Group, China’s dominant e-commerce company, accounting for $170 billion in estimated sales in 2012, has promoted veteran insider Jonathan Lu Zhaoxi, executive vice president, to succeed Alibaba founder Jack Ma as CEO on May 10, the company said today. Ma, who founded Alibaba in 1999 and announced in January plans to give up the CEO post, will remain as executive chairman.

Lu joined the company in 2000, launched its Alipay online payments service in 2004 and in 2011 was named CEO of the business-to-business retail portal Alibaba.com. He is “passionate about and familiar with the Group’s various businesses,” Ma says. “Not only has he contributed to building our culture and organization and developed many talented people, he also possesses a unique leadership style and charisma.”

Lu will take the CEO position four months after Alibaba, No. 1 in Internet Retailer’s Asia 500 guide, reorganized itself into 25 business units covering business-to-consumer and business-to-business e-commerce, managed by a group of nine presidents. This was the company’s third reorganization within the past 21 months, as Alibaba has strived to manage surging growth in e-commerce sales, which rose 67.4% last year to an Internet Retailer-estimated $170.0 billion from $101.5 billion in 2011, according to the Asia 500 guide.

Alibaba is expected to conduct an initial public offering of stock this year or next. The company is valued at roughly $40 billion, based on what it paid last year to buy back roughly half of Yahoo Inc.’s 40% stake in Alibaba.

Lu will oversee all of the company’s businesses except for the recently formed financial services unit, the Alibaba Small and Micro Financial Services Group, which will be headed by Lucy Peng. Peng was promoted last week from Alibaba’s chief human resources officer and former head of Alipay to CEO of the financial services group.

When Lu joined Alibaba in 2000, the company was still building on its initial base as an Internet marketplace designed to help China’s manufacturers connect with international buyers. One of his first tasks was to form a sales team for South China. In 2004, he led the launch of Alipay, later becoming its president.

In 2008, Lu moved to Alibaba’s retail e-commerce side, where he helped retail marketplace Taobao.com grow its gross merchandise sales and integrate with social media. He returned to the b2b side in 2011 to head up the Alibaba.com marketplace. Lu was named executive vice president and chief data officer of Alibaba Group in July 2012.

Prior to joining Alibaba Group, Lu co-founded a network communication company after having worked in the hotel industry.


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