Alibaba said to have dismissed live-streaming chief on nepotism charges

FILE PHOTO: A logo of Alibaba Group is seen at the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, October 20, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has fired Zhao Yan, the head of its fast-growing livestreaming division, on grounds of nepotism and accepting gifts, according to an internal memo announcing his termination, seen by Reuters.

The undated document, produced by Alibaba’s human resources department and published on June 29 on the company’s internal intranet for staff, says Zhao was fired after he used his position to help third-party livestreamers score favorable positioning on Taobao Live, Alibaba’s main platform for live-streamed e-commerce.

The document also says Zhao helped his girlfriend secure a high-paying job with a livestreaming company, and accepted gifts from business partners. The document did not link the gifts to the favorable positioning, say how the allegations were discovered or investigated, or when Zhao was fired.

An Alibaba spokesman declined to comment.

Zhao did not respond to messages sent to his personal account on Chinese social media site Weibo, and Reuters did not have his telephone contact details. Reuters was not able to determine whether Zhao had legal representation.

Livestreaming is one of Alibaba’s fastest-growing business sectors, with the company’s most recent earnings report showing a doubling between fiscal 2018 and 2019 in gross merchandise volume (GMV), which the company uses to track transaction volume, on Taobao Live.

Monday’s dismissal comes months after the company demoted Jiang Fan, a vice president thought to be in line for the chief executive job, in a case that sparked online debate about Alibaba’s broader influence in big tech.

Jiang was demoted in April after an internal investigation into allegations of improper behavior, according to a person familiar with the situation, following speculation on Weibo about his relationship with a prominent social media influencer. Jiang did not respond to requests for comment on his demotion at the time and Alibaba has declined to make him available for interview. He was not reachable for comment via social media messaging on Thursday.

An internal memo to all staff seen by Reuters at the time said Jiang’s demotion triggered “a serious public opinion crisis which created a major impact on the company’s reputation”.

Reuters

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.