Alibaba’s Daniel Zhang Steps Down Unexpectedly

Daniel Zhang, Alibaba Group’s former group chief executive officer and current CEO of the Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Group, revealed on Sunday that he would be leaving the company.

After Zhang’s surprise departure, Alibaba’s shares fell around 3.5 percent on Monday.

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When Alibaba unveiled a group-level reorganization last March, Zhang’s role was split between Joseph Tsai, who would assume the role of group chairman, and Eddie Yongming Wu, who would serve as CEO and director of the company. The handover process was completed Sunday.

At the time, Zhang said he would continue to serve as the CEO of Alibaba’s Cloud Intelligence Unit and take the company public within 12 months.

After Zhang’s unexpected departure, Wu has been named acting chairman and CEO of the cloud arm, effective Sunday.

“While investors don’t like the surprise leadership change, Eddie Wu is more than qualified to serve as acting chairman and CEO of the cloud business given his technology and business background,” said Jacob Cooke, CEO of WPIC, the Beijing-based e-commerce consulting firm.

“A new management team needs to be appointed but our understanding is today’s news doesn’t impact progress for the cloud division’s spinoff and IPO, or for the broader reorganization,” Cooke added.

“As Jack [Ma] said four years ago, leadership transition goes beyond a simple handover of responsibility; it’s about the continuation of Alibaba’s culture, values and systems,” Tsai wrote in an internal memo obtained by WWD. “This is the bedrock of our aspiration to live 102 years.”

According to the memo, Alibaba will invest $1 billion in a new technology fund helmed by Zhang. “The fund will support Alibaba’s strategy of investing for future growth and continuing to develop our technology ecosystem,” wrote Tsai in the memo.

Zhang was appointed Alibaba CEO in 2015; he later succeeded Jack Ma as group chairman after Ma’s retirement in 2019.

The 51-year-old Zhang is best known for creating the Singles’ Day shopping festival, the world’s largest online shopping festival.

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