Yu Yongfu, CEO of Alibaba’s film arm Alibaba Pictures Groups, is going to step down from management, Tencent Tech is reporting, citing people with knowledge of the matter. Alibaba board chairman Jack Ma and CEO Daniel Zhang have given their approval to the change, the source added.
The company is seeking actively to fill the leadership vacuum, according to the report. One of the candidates is Lu Fubin, former vice president of Baidu who oversees business in film and video, music, short videos, etc.
Alibaba spokeswoman denied this news in response to our inquiry. Yu also clarified on his Weibo, saying that he’s not leaving the company at the time of this publication. The spokeswoman didn’t comment on whether there’s going to be a change in Yu’s position.
Despite the buzz, the circulation of this rumor reflects the troubles Alibaba Pictures is facing: mediocre performance of a unit where the parent company had placed high hopes (and money) on.
Yu shows strong capabilities in capital operation and integration, demonstrated by the acquisition of mapping service AutoNavi, but he has limited experience in the film business. Youku Tudou, the once No.1 video-streaming under Alibaba Pictures, gradually lost its foothold in competition with upcoming rivals like Tencent Video and iQiyi. The case is worsened by flat box office performances in blockbuster films like See You Tomorrow and Once Upon A Time.
The 41-year-old tech star in China’s internet industry has completed a remarkably fast rise although he’s a relative newcomer to the Alibaba Group. He joined the parent company in 2014, when UCWeb, the mobile internet company he then headed as CEO, was fully acquired by Alibaba in a deal valued at more than $2 billion. In May 2015, he was named the president of Alibaba Group’s mobile internet division. He joined Alibaba Pictures as a non-executive and was later named CEO of the firm in late 2016. Yu was widely guessed to be the successor to the legendary Jack Ma in running the e-commerce empire.