Alibaba shifting focus to young executives in reorganization

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Image credit: Alibaba Group

Chinese technology behemoth Alibaba released plans for further internal restructuring with a major reshuffle of top executives and business units, according to an internal letter from company CEO Daniel Zhang circulated on Tuesday.

Maggie Wu, the company’s CFO since 2007, was named the new head of the strategic investment unit, reporting directly to CEO Daniel Zhang. Joe Tsai, executive vice-chairman who now oversees mergers and acquisitions, will support 45-year-old Wu in her new role.

Meanwhile, 41-year-old Fan Luyuan will take the helm of the company’s digital media and entertainment unit as president, responsible for video-streaming platform Youku, film production arm Alibaba Pictures, and ticketing platform Damai.

Zhu Shunyan, 48, was named head of the innovation initiatives unit, adding to his responsibilities over literature, music, and Tmall Genie, the smart AI assistant.

The announcement is another significant reshuffle following company co-founder and chairman Jack Ma’s announcement last year that he will be stepping down in September. A March announcement named Jiang Fan, Taobao’s 34-year-old president, to oversee Tmall, the core business-to-consumer (B2C) online marketplace.

The move comes as tech companies across China are implementing internal changes to promote younger employees. Alibaba rival Tencent announced a series of major changes to its existing employee ranking system in an effort to promote younger workers and better attract younger users. Xiaomi has undergone similar structural adjustments to help develop younger talent.

As part of the reorganization, Alibaba’s supermarket division, Freshippo or Hema, will become a standalone business. Despite the company’s high hopes for Freshippo, there have been setbacks. It closed a store in Suzhou’s Kunshan plaza in May, sparking wider discussion on the sustainability of the new-retail-plus-fresh-produce model. Meituan meanwhile has shut down some of its stores for Freshippo rival Ella supermarket brand.

Alibaba has said Freshippo’s expansion is on a solid trajectory with 135 self-operated stores in China, primarily located in tier-one and tier-two cities.

The US-listed tech giant is reportedly preparing for a $20 billion secondary listing in Hong Kong stock exchange.