Alibaba has just ushered in its second CEO since Jack Ma stepped down exactly two years ago. Former Chief Operating Officer Daniel Zheng will take over from Jonathan Lu, who will remain on the board of directors of Alibaba Group as Vice Chairman according to a statement from the company.

At the same time, the company announced a 45% year-over-year revenue rise in its March quarter earnings report, exceeding expectations. Like other Chinese internet giants, mobile was a strong point, with a 352% increase in mobile driven e-commerce retail revenue compared to the same period in 2014.

The announcement comes barely a week after Jack Ma announced to staff that Alibaba would be freezing new hires for the rest of the year because the company was growing “too quickly.” Whether the CEO reassignment has anything to do with Ma’s efficiency woes is unclear. However, onlookers were quick to jump to conclusions last week, assuming the freeze would precede a poor earnings report.

New CEO Daniel Zheng came on board as Chief Financial Officer of the Taobao Marketplace in 2007, and was later promoted to CEO of the Marketplace and Tmall services.

Ma did not give a reason for the shift in high-level management, but noted that former CEO Jonathan Lu would be taking on a sudo-training role. While Ma has been vocal in the past about promoting younger leadership, Daniel Zheng is just two years younger than his 45-year-old predecessor.

“Daniel is a proven international business leader and innovator with a strong track record of delivering results,” said Jack Ma. “I look forward to [former CEO Jonathan Lu’s] continued contribution as a key leader in helping Alibaba Group train and develop the next generation of leaders.”

In 2013 when Ma handed his role to Lu, he noted that “the internet is a place for young people, this year, most of the leaders at Alibaba born in the 1960’s will exit management roles to lead… we believe they know what’s ahead better than we do.”

The company has recently invested in a spate of new projects, including civil projects, banking & credit, hospitals, transport, consumer tech and offline to offline (O2O) services. Like other internet giants in the Chinese market, the company has been quick to diversify into virtually every investment vertical in the market.

While the strategy has proved successful so far for a range of Chinese tech titans, the rapid expansion has obviously put a strain on the company’s operations. Ma and Zheng will be looking to consolidate Alibaba’s core sectors in the coming quarter. 

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Cate Cadell

Cate is a tech writer. She worked as a journalist in Australia, Mongolia and Myanmar. You can reach her (in Chinese or English) at: @catecadell or

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