Chai Shai Chaishai with me

In a significant restructuring, Alibaba names a new chairman and chief executive officer.

As part of the greatest shakeup in the history of the Chinese digital behemoth, Alibaba is replacing Daniel Zhang as chairman and CEO.

Alibaba (BABA) said on Tuesday that Joseph Tsai, the company’s executive vice chairman and a co-founder, will follow Zhang as chairman. Eddie Wu, the current chairman of Taobao and Tmall Group, will take over as CEO from Zhang.

Both positions will go into effect in September, and Zhang will continue to lead Alibaba’s cloud business as its chairman and CEO.

This is the second big leadership transition at Alibaba in as many years, following Jack Ma’s departure in 2019. And this is happening when the corporation has recently announced its largest reorganization in 24 years.

In March, the corporation announced that it would be breaking up into six distinct divisions, including cloud, e-commerce, logistics, media, and entertainment. Having its own chief executive officer and board of directors means that each division is now free to pursue its own listing or round of funding.

As the Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Group moves closer to a full spin-off, “this is the right time for me to make a transition,” Zhang said in the announcement. Since 2015, he has served as CEO of Alibaba.

He also mentioned that the company’s cloud business had “exciting new opportunities” because to the development of generative AI.

Wu, who was also a co-founder of Alibaba, was the company’s first technical director.

Although the company’s restructuring would result in a new corporate organizational and governance structure, “Alibaba’s mission remains unchanged,” he stated.

After eight years with Alibaba, Zhang was promoted to CEO in May 2015. After Jack Ma retired on his birthday and the company’s 20th anniversary in 2019, he took over as executive chairman.

Alibaba, with over 900 million customers each year on its Taobao and Tmall platforms, is the largest e-commerce corporation in China. It also runs the most important cloud computing and digital payment systems in the country.

However, in recent years, both the corporation and its co-founder Ma have been targets of a widespread crackdown by Beijing.

Beijing abruptly canceled the blockbuster IPO of Ant Group, the unit of Alibaba that operates Alipay, after Ma attacked Chinese financial regulators in a public speech late January 2020. During the regulatory blitz that followed the cancellation, Beijing fined Alibaba Group a record $2.8 billion for breaking antitrust rules, effectively crippling the company.

Since then, Ma has further distanced himself from his businesses and the public eye. The CEO of SoftBank, Masa Son, is a close friend of his and an investor in Alibaba, therefore he has apparently been spending more time in Hong Kong and Japan.

But in March, just days before Alibaba disclosed its major reorganization plan, he made an unexpected public visit in mainland China. Analysts say Beijing likely staged his return as a “planned media event” to calm concerns in the private sector, but it was more of a symbolic gesture.

Since then, Ma has made more frequent public appearances, with a clearer emphasis on his academic pursuits. In April, it was reported that Ma would be spending the next three years teaching business at the University of Hong Kong.

According to a statement released by the University of Tokyo, Ma delivered his first lecture as a visiting professor last week.

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