JD.com’s president Xu Lei replaces founder Richard Liu as the company’s CEO
On April 7, JD.com, China’s second-largest e-commerce company, announced its recent management and board changes. Richard Qiangdong Liu, the self-made billionaire who founded JD.com in 2009, will no longer hold the position of CEO, but will remain as the chairman of the Board and “continue to focus on guiding the company’s long-term strategies, mentoring younger management, and contributing to the revitalization of rural areas,” according to JD.com’s announcement.
Liu’s successor, Xu Lei, is the current president of JD.com, director of Dada and ATRenew, and has been with JD.com for over a decade. Xu has held several senior roles prior to the new appointment, including CEO of JD Retail, Chief Marketing Officer of JD.com, head of JD Wireless, and head of marketing department, and has also led the launch of JD.com’s 6.18 Grand Promotion events.
Xu Lei at JD Retail’s event
JD.com is one of the tech companies in China currently undergoing a round of massive layoffs. According to a Yicai report, JD.com is letting go of 4,000 or up to 15% of its employees at Jingxi Pinpin, a group-buying service launched in 2019. JD.com’s recently released financial report shows that it has incurred a net loss of 3.6 billion yuan, and investments for new business units such as Jingxi Pinpin account for most of its loss.
In 2021 Q4, Jingxi Pinpin had an average of 8 million daily orders, while its GMV(Gross Merchandise Value) achieved 9 billion, falling short compared to its rivals in the group buying industry. Duoduo Maicai had 44 million average daily orders and 43 billion GMV, Meituan Youxuan had 42 million average daily orders and 38 billion GMV, and Taocaicai had 12 million average daily orders and 13 billion GMV.
In recent years, many founders of tech companies in China have taken a similar path as Liu, departing their companies to focus on long-term strategies and take on more social responsibilities. In 2013, Jack Ma of Alibaba resigned as CEO and focused on education and charity projects in rural areas. In 2021, ByteDance’s Zhang Yiming resigns his position as CEO and chairman of the board, saying he wants to be more involved in the company’s public welfare projects, such as education, research of brain disease, and digitization of ancient books. In the same year, Huang Zheng, founder of Pinduoduo resigned as president and said he will devote himself to research related to food science and life science in the future.
The departure of these tech billionaires comes amid an emphasis on China’s common prosperity drive. The drive encourages “third distribution”, which refers to high-income individuals and enterprises giving back to society by donations and charity projects.