Didi co-founder Jean Liu said to be considering move to step down

REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Didi Global Inc co-founder and President Jean Liu has told some close associates that she intends to step down, two sources familiar with the matter said, as the Chinese ride-hailing giant faces intense regulatory scrutiny following its New York listing earlier this year.

Liu, 43, has in recent weeks told some associates that she expected the government to eventually take control of Didi and appoint new management, said the two sources.

Liu, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker, told a couple of executives close to her in recent weeks – including those who had followed her to join Didi from the Wall Street bank – that she planned to leave and encouraged them to start looking for new opportunities as well, said one of the sources who was briefed on the matter.

Some of those executives have since approached industry contacts for job leads, the source said.

Reuters was unable to learn further details, including whether Liu had submitted a formal resignation letter or set a date to leave.

Didi said it is “actively and fully cooperating with the cybersecurity review. Reuters’ rumors about management changes are untrue and unsubstantiated.”

Liu did not respond to Reuters request for comment sent via the company spokespersons.

Didi, sometimes dubbed the Uber of China, has come under intense scrutiny since early July by Chinese authorities over its collection and use of personal data of users of its service, pricing mechanisms and competitive practices.

Officials have launched a broad crackdown on private companies, including those in the tech sector, to control big data and break down monopolistic practices.

Billionaires minted by high-profile listings, such as Didi‘s $4.4 billion debut, have fallen out of favor as President Xi Jinping warns against the country’s vast income inequality.

Didi ran afoul of the powerful Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) when it pressed ahead with its debut on June 30, despite the regulator urging the company to put it on hold while it conducted a cybersecurity review of its data practices, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Soon after the listing, the CAC announced an investigation into Didi and subsequently ordered the removal of its apps for download in China. Officials from at least six other departments also got involved.

Reuters could not learn whether regulators had asked for Liu’s departure and what would happen to other executives, such as Didi Chairman and CEO Will Cheng.

One of the sources familiar with Liu’s plans said the Harvard alumni and daughter of Lenovo Group founder Liu Chuanzhi had also talked about leaving Didi in the years before the current regulatory crisis to try her hand at something new.

CAC did not respond to Reuters request for comment, while Didi did not respond to specific questions.

Liu joined Didi in 2014. She holds a 1.6% stake, worth around $640 million currently, in the company and controls 23% of the vote, thanks to a dual-class share structure, according to the company’s prospectus.

She has been deeply involved in the company’s key corporate financial decisions, including its merger with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd-backed Kuaidi in 2015, the takeover of Uber Technologies Inc’s China business and fundraising from investors including Apple Inc.

Liu also oversees Didi‘s other corporate matters including human resources and represents the company in external communications, especially during crises.

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.