China's JD.com promotes Lei Xu to CEO as founder Liu steps back

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: A man stands outside JD.com’s headquarters, amid the Singles' Day shopping festival, during an organised tour in Beijing

(Reuters) -JD.com Inc promoted its president, Lei Xu, to chief executive officer on Thursday to succeed founder Richard Liu, officially handing Xu the reins of the Chinese e-commerce company after he performed the role for several months.

Xu, who has worked at JD.com for more than a decade, will start the top job immediately, the company said in a statement, adding that he will also join the board as an executive director.

Xu's appointment comes as JD.com deals with slowing growth, with competition rising and consumer spending shrinking amid tightened regulations in China that have targeted e-commerce platforms.

JD.com has been cutting jobs recently and expanded layoffs in March, according to local media, as have other Chinese technology companies that are slashing their workforce to cut costs in a weaker, pandemic-ravaged economy. JD.com's U.S.-listed shares have nearly halved since their peak in February 2021.

Reuters reported last month that Chinese internet giants Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings are preparing for layoff rounds this year that might cut tens of thousands of jobs.

JD.com's core e-commerce business remained solid and the job cuts were happening at its marginal businesses, said Liu Xingliang, president of tech consultancy China Internet Data Center.

"Richard Liu is handing over the baton to Xu Lei, who will take care of the everyday business," he said.

Richard Liu, who started the company that would become JD.com in 1998 and a few years back had called out what he said were "slackers" in his firm, will spend more time mentoring younger management and focus on the company's business in rural areas.

With 80% of its voting share as per the company's 2020 annual report, and a nearly 14% stake, Liu will remain chairman of the board.

Liu's control of the company became a focus after he was arrested in the U.S. city of Minneapolis in 2018 following a rape allegation. He denied the allegation and was not charged with a crime.

Last September, JD.com had said Liu would step away from the day-to-day operations, handing those responsibilities over to Xu and switching his focus to JD.com's long-term strategy.

(Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath and Mrinmay Dey in Bengaluru; Sophie Yu in Beijing and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, Sayantani Ghosh and William Mallard)

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