The billionaire founder of China’s second-biggest online retailer JD.com Inc., Richard Liu, stepped down as chief executive officer on Thursday, April 7, amid Beijing’s ongoing tech crackdown.
The Chinese tech tyrant announced that Richard Liu would pass the baton to current president Xu Lei, the former head of JD.com’s retail business and a company veteran of more than a decade.
According to the announcement, Xu will start the top job immediately and join the board as an executive director. Meanwhile, Liu, who owns about 80% of the voting power and nearly a 14% stake, will remain chairman of the board.
As Bloomberg reported, Richard Liu had already distanced himself from the company’s daily management following an allegation of sexual assault in 2018 by a student in Minnesota.
But he denied the allegation, authorities in Minneapolis declined to charge him, and Liu’s control of the company has become a focus since then.
Richard Liu is not the only Chinese tech founder to take a step back recently.
Bloomberg reported that Zhang Yiming, founder of Tiktok owner Bytedance, also stepped down as CEO to take a less prominent role in the company last year. In addition, video platform Kuaishou founder Su Hua ceded leadership to trusted deputy Cheng Yixiao. And Colin Huang, founder of the upstart e-commerce company Pinduoduo resigned as CEO in 2020 due to Beijing’s crackdown.
Until now, JD.com was one of the few Chinese internet behemoths to escape major regulatory action from Beijing.
But the company could not avoid the sweeping Chinese tech selloff and economic slowdown. As a result, JD’s market valuation has plunged nearly 45% from its peak of about $92 million in 2021.