China’s second largest e-commerce company, JD.com, has been quietly astir with major changes at the top after its founder and chief executive Richard Liu Qiangdong, has discreetly stepped down from a number of key roles.
Liu’s US arrest on suspicion of rape in 2018 raised concerns that too much power was concentrated in too little hands under JD.com’s rigid ownership and decision-making structure.
In the last few weeks Liu has stepped down from key positions at multiple JD.com subsidiaries, including the company’s logistics, cloud computing, and health care units, according to media reports citing business registry records. Wang Zhenhui, JD Logistics’ CEO has taken over the top role in those three companies.
But Liu has held on to control of at least two key subsidiaries of the e-commerce giant, despite the announcement last year that he would loosen his grip on the company and these most recent moves to relinquish control, at least on paper.
Caixin reports that public records show Liu still holds the controlling stake (45 per cent) of a company registered in Xi’an that fully controls JD Logistics. He also indirectly controls the subsidiary which runs JD.com’s cloud computing unit.
JD.com downplays the recent changes, describing them as, “fairly normal management moves.”
Earlier, Liu had resigned from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, (CPPCC), an advisory body to China’s parliament, for “personal reasons”, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
Liu has maintained his innocence on the rape rap and following investigations by US law enforcement, no charges were laid. The woman at the centre of the accusations has filed a civil lawsuit against him in the US city of Minneapolis.
Twenty-two year-old Liu Jingyao, is suing Liu for $50,000 in damages, pledging to donate $49,000 of it to Chinese feminists who have been supportive of her. She has also been the subject of a relentless and brutal bullying campaign in Chinese social media.