Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang Steps Down, Eddie Wu and Joseph Tsai Step up

Wu's appointment signals an increased focus on retail.

Daniel Zhang speaks on stage with hands out.
Daniel Zhang has worked at Alibaba since 2007. VCG via Getty Images

Daniel Zhang, the chairman and CEO of e-commerce giant ALIBABA (BABA) Group, will relinquish his position on September 10, the company confirmed today (June 20). Eddie Wu, who oversees the company’s retail business, will take the chief executive role. Executive vice chairman Joseph Tsai will become chairman of the board.

“Daniel (Zhang) has made exceptional contributions to the development of Alibaba Group since joining the company in 2007, and he demonstrated extraordinary leadership in navigating unprecedented uncertainties affecting our business over the past few years,” Tsai said in a statement.

Alibaba is a Chinese company with businesses in e-commerce, retail, tech and entertainment. The news follows a company announcement from March it would break into six independent business groups, with Alibaba as the holding entity. The company, which has a market cap of $228 billion, has faced financial difficulties in recent years due to China’s pandemic-related lockdowns and slowed economy. Last year, it laid off nearly 20,000 employees, or 10 percent of its workforce. The company has also experienced increased regulatory pressure recently, which is expected to ease with the company’s breakup strategy.

Zhang will still oversee the Cloud Intelligence Group, one of the Alibaba divisions focusing on the cloud and artificial intelligence, as chairman and CEO. He had been working in that role since December 2022. In the three months ending March 31, the company’s cloud revenue amounted to 18.6 billion yuan ($2.59 billion), or 9 percent of the company’s total revenue.

“We believe there is no better leader than Daniel (Zhang) to steer Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Group into the next chapter of its journey and future growth,” said Tsai.

Who is Daniel Zhang?

Zhang joined Alibaba in 2007 as chief financial officer of the Taobao Marketplace, the company’s online shopping platform. He concurrently worked as general manager of Tmall, another Alibaba retail site. In 2011, Zhang became president of Tmall, where he worked for two years. He took the chief operating officer position for Alibaba in 2013, where he worked immediately prior to becoming CEO. He stepped into the chief executive role in May 2015 and the chairman role in September 2019, replacing founder Jack Ma.

“It has been an incredible honor and privilege to lead Alibaba Group as CEO over the past eight years and Chairman over the past four years,” he said in a statement. “This is the right time for me to make a transition, given the importance of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Group as it progresses towards a full spin-off.”

Prior to Alibaba, Zhang worked at accounting firms Arthur Andersen and PricewaterhouseCoopers. He also spent two years as the chief financial officer for Shanda Interactive Entertainment, a game developer. He is worth $1 billion, according to Forbes.

Who is Eddie Wu?

Wu founded Alibaba alongside Ma and 16 others in 1999. He currently works as the chairman of the Taobao and Tmall Group, the online retail branch. Wu has held various positions at the company, including chairman of Alibaba Health and chief technology officer for Taobao. Before Alibaba, he worked at China Pages, an internet company which Ma founded in 1995.  He also headed tech for China’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation website. Wu’s net worth is $1.1 billion, Forbes reported.

“Over the past 24 years, Alibaba has consistently innovated through evolution and breakthroughs from within, and each transformation has catalyzed new growth,” Wu said. “I am grateful for the trust of the Alibaba Group board of directors and am honored to succeed Daniel as Alibaba’s CEO.”

Who is Joseph Tsai?

Tsai also co-founded Alibaba. He worked as the company’s chief financial officer until 2013, when he became executive vice chairman. He was previously a private equity investor with Investor AB and general counsel of Rosecliff, a New York-based investment management firm. He is worth $7.8 billion, according to Forbes. Tsai owns a variety of sports teams, including the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, the WNBA’s New York Liberty and the National Lacrosse League’s San Diego Seals.

“I look forward to working with Eddie (Wu) to spark our next phase of growth through technology and innovation,” he said.

Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang Steps Down, Eddie Wu and Joseph Tsai Step up