Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com said on Monday that founder and chief executive Richard Liu will step back from the day-to-day running of the company to focus on long-term strategy.
Instead, Xu Lei, who has been running JD Retail, JD’s largest division, will take over operations of the business, assuming a newly created title of president.
Liu will remain on the board of the company, originally set up to sell electronic goods, and he will keep his chief executive title. The group has since expanded into groceries and clothing.
Liu said in a statement: “JD has a sound management structure with a large number of excellent business leaders, who, represented by Mr. Lei Xu, have strong belief in JD’s long-term business philosophy, proven leadership capability and extensive industry experience.”
The change in management responsibilities may go some way to assuage succession concerns at JD, which has grown into one of China’s largest businesses, with analysts tipping Xu as a potential successor to Liu.
A note from analysts at Citi, reported by Reuters, said: “We believe if Mr. Xu further proves his management capability, we would not be surprised if he is positioned as a potential successor to Mr. Richard Liu should Mr. Liu decide to step down one day.”
The management move comes at a key time for Chinese tech stocks which in recent months have faced a regulatory crackdown that wiped billions off their value.
Authorities have notably targeted technology companies in a bid to curb alleged monopolistic practices while also safeguarding the use of consumers’ personal data.
JD.com isn’t alone in playing musical chairs with its management roles. In September 2019 at rival
Jack Ma stepped down as chairman, and the founder of ByteDance, which owns the TikTok social media application, Zhand Yiming, stepped down as chief executive earlier this year.
In the statement JD.com added that Liu will devote more time to formulating the company’s long-term strategies, mentoring younger management, and contributing to the revitalization of rural areas.
He was quoted as saying: “Looking to the future, the correct long-term strategic design, the growth and development of young talents, and the healthy and coordinated development of various business units will continue to be the driving force for JD, in doing the hardest and most challenging, but right and most valuable things for the industry.”
JD.com stock was up 1.35% in Hong Kong.