By ZEN SOO – AP Technology Writer
SINGAPORE (AP) — Chinese e-commerce company JD.com announced Thursday that its founder Richard Liu has given up his position as CEO, China’s latest billionaire founder, to step down amid increased government scrutiny of the country’s tech industry.
According to a company release, Liu will hand over the reins to JD.com President Xu Lei. Liu will remain CEO and continue to focus on JD.com’s “long-term strategies, mentoring of younger leaders and its contribution to revitalizing rural areas,” the statement said.
“I will devote more of my time to JD’s long-term strategies and future drivers as we continue to work on the most challenging but valuable things,” said Liu.
Liu is the latest in a string of founders of Chinese tech companies to step down from senior positions in recent years. Last year, e-commerce company Pinduoduo founder Colin Huang resigned as chairman, and Bytedance founder Zhang Yiming also left his position as chairman of the company.
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The departures came as Beijing cracked down on the country’s once free-ranging tech industry over antitrust concerns and fears that China’s tech giants exert too much influence on society.
JD.com’s stock price has plummeted 27% over the past year. The New York-listed stock closed down 3% at $59.07 on the Nasdaq ahead of Thursday’s announcement.
Like many Chinese tech companies, JD.com’s finances have suffered over the past year. The company reported a net loss of 5.2 billion yuan ($817 million) for the fourth quarter of 2021, compared with a net profit of 24.3 billion yuan ($3.8 billion) a year earlier, although revenue fell 23% rose.
E-commerce firms like JD.com and competitor Alibaba are suffering from economic headwinds and a slowdown in consumption, as well as increasing competition from other players like short video companies like Kuaishou, who have started to integrate e-commerce capabilities into their platforms.
In 2018, Liu was arrested in Minnesota, United States, after a Chinese student accused him of raping her in her apartment after they both attended a dinner party. Liu was exonerated after prosecutors determined there was insufficient evidence to bring charges. The student later sued Liu in a civil lawsuit, seeking more than $50,000 in damages.
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