Xu Lei, who was recently appointed to the president after more than a decade with the company, will take over as CEO of the e-commerce behemoth immediately. According to a filing on Thursday, Liu’s lieutenant has joined JD’s six-member board, while Liu remains chairman. In early Hong Kong trade, its shares fell as high as 2.9 percent.
Richard Liu, the billionaire founder of JD.com Inc., has stepped down as CEO of China’s No. 2 online retailer, joining the ranks of digital tycoons who left senior management positions following Beijing’s broad internet-sector crackdown.
Some of China’s wealthiest entrepreneurs have handed over control of their businesses in the last two years, as Xi Jinping’s administration has targeted industries ranging from e-commerce to gaming in an effort to limit the rising power of internet enterprises.
Zhang Yiming, the founder of ByteDance Ltd., stood down as chairman last year, months after resigning as CEO of the TikTok owner. Su Hua, the founder of Kuaishou Technology, has handed up leadership to fellow co-founder Cheng Yixiao. Colin Huang, the founder of e-commerce start-up Pinduoduo Inc., stepped down as CEO in 2020, ahead of Beijing’s crackdown.
Since being accused of rape in 2018, Liu has steadily stepped back from day-to-day operations, an accusation he has denied. The leadership shift represents a further departure from the internet commerce empire he established in Beijing in 2004.
JD was one of the few Chinese internet heavyweights that escaped the sweeping campaign to rein in Big Tech. In fact, it has profited from the crackdown by attracting new and returning brands to its platform, such as Starbucks and Estee Lauder, after antitrust regulators penalized larger rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. for antitrust violations and forced it to overhaul merchant exclusivity policies.
However, the company has been caught up in a larger Chinese IT selloff and economic slump. JD’s market capitalization has dropped about 45 percent from its high last year, to over $92 billion.
JD said in a statement that Liu will continue to devote his time to leading the company’s long-term plans and mentoring younger management. He will also help to revitalise rural China, which is a goal of Xi’s “shared prosperity” strategy.