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Publication Date : 12-03-2013
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, China's biggest e-commerce company, appointed a new CEO on Monday after founder Jack Ma said in January that he would step down from the post in May.
The move marks the first CEO handover among China's major Internet companies.
Jonathan Lu Zhaoxi, Alibaba's executive vice-president, will officially take over the post on May 10, while Ma, 48, will stay on as executive chairman. Analysts said the transition is not likely to bring big changes because the strategic decisions are still going to be made by Ma.
Lu, 43, is also the company's chief data officer and president of the unit in charge of the Aliyun mobile operating system. He has led three of Alibaba's major divisions since he joined the company in 2000.
"Not only has he contributed to building our culture and organisation, but he has also developed many talented people, and he possesses a unique leadership style and charisma," Ma wrote in an e-mail sent on Monday to employees.
Lu launched the Guangdong sales team of Alibaba's business-to-business website Alibaba.com in 2000. He was the founding president of the company's online payment arm Alipay, and in 2008 served as president of Taobao.com, Alibaba's business-to-consumer website.
Hong Bo, a Beijing-based analyst and founder of IT consultancy company IT5G, said that Lu was appointed because the first CEO in the post-Ma era needs to understand Ma well and also each of the company's business divisions.
"Ma to Alibaba represents what Deng Xiaoping was to China, and whoever takes cares of the daily operations of Alibaba is carrying out Ma's decisions," Hong said.
However, he added that Lu may be a transitional choice as Ma has expressed his preference for younger leaders.
In January, Ma said that he hopes that those born in the 1970s and 1980s have a chance to lead the company as "the Internet belongs to the young ones".
The fact that Lu is taking the CEO job also shows the increasing importance the company attaches to data, said Qiu Lin, an IT analyst with Guosen Securities Co in Hong Kong.
"This means that Alibaba will be more driven by technological innovation and data analysis," he said, adding that this will be a similar strategy to the one followed by Amazon, which is known for its data-driven initiatives.
As future CEO, Lu will be in charge of all the businesses, with the exception of the recently formed Alibaba Small and Micro Financial Services Group.
Lucy Peng, Alibaba's chief human resources officer and former head of Alipay, was appointed the CEO of the new financial services unit last week, in one of the series of organisational changes that Alibaba made in the last two years.
Alibaba is the most valuable private technology company in the world with 24,000 employees and an estimated valuation of more than $40 billion, according to a ranking compiled by Business Insider.