Changes in the top management of Tmall after Jack Ma’s surprise visit



In 2014, TMall was shocked when and were beating them in two core categories – clothing and household appliances. Furthermore, The Q4’14 sales volume of Jingdong was 119%, nearly doubling Tmall’s performance.

In 2014, TMall was shocked when and were beating them in two core categories – clothing and household appliances. Furthermore, The Q4’14 sales volume of Jingdong was 119%, nearly doubling Tmall’s performance.

To face the threat they responded by focusing on quality and increasing commission and advertising prices which not only raise its threshold but also contribute to the loss of some merchants. According to a <Wall Street Journal> report, the price of key search words like cosmetics and clothing on Alibaba were ten yuan higher per click than other sites. And the price per day for a conspicuous advertisement across many cities and categories reached about US$162,460.

In response at the end of 2014, it was a rumored that Jack MA held meetings every day to criticize every department in TMall and delayed the delivery of their annual bonuses. One Sunday during March of this year, Jack MA secretly went to inspect the Tmall office and found few people were working overtime and got furious. Soon after a notice was issued officially by email with Zhang Jianfeng replacing Wang Yulei as President.

Zhang Jianfeng role would be to centralize the administration of Taobao,Tmall and into one division and report directly to COO, ZHANG Yong. ZHANG Jianfeng joined Alibaba in 2004 with a techical background. He was one of the key pioneers who constructed Taobao, is highly praised by his staff for his vigor, talent in setting goals and achieving them regardless of the cost, and he pays more special attention on data than imagination. 

This result-oriented leadership style is not common in Alibaba’s top management. During his previous years at Taobao, Jianfeng ZHANG focused on major things: one was to develop e-commerce in rural areas and the other was to strongly promote wireless innovation. He helped to some extent to changed the former centralized management style and the orientation of operations. He delegated powers to project teams and give great support to product managers. Many mobile products emerged from this change, such as image community ‘Big’ and interest forum ‘Bala’.

Previously, Jack Ma divided the company into 25 business units under the charge of 9 different presidents. The management style resembled a fuedal system consistently changing leaders (7 changes at Tmall). Over the past two years, some presidents got marginalized, some were deemed more valuable, However, Zhang Jianfeng's promotion proves that the true talents are limited in Alibaba.

No one publicly disagreed with Jianfeng ZHANG’s arrival. The problem is whether an outstanding and ruthless ‘fireman’ who is good at controlling the situation under complex conditions is a suitable candidate to coordinate three big platforms of Taobao, Tmall and, and whether he can find a shortcut for Tmall. Those all remain unknown.  An employee told <CAIJING> (a financial magazine), while the product team welcomed Jianfeng ZHANG, the operation team preferred merciful Yulei WANG. Some staff even cried when they heard the news.

“Honestly, I admire Yulei WANG’s product concept and business judgment”, said a senior worker in Alibaba. However, the problem rested in the weak implementation of his subordinates. “He only believed in his staffs who was loyal to him from the beginning, so he cannot achieve a goal by centralizing all the staffs’ power”, the employee added, “those people ruined him.”

Lots of other details on the characteristics of the former President then ending with the following warning.

One of the factors that contribute Alibaba’s success is its strong values and almighty management team. Investors can only pray for a good result this time.


The following loosely translated excerpts are taken from a blog by Wei SONG a journalist from China’s leading financial magazine<Caijing>. We make no representation on the accuracy. link

About The Author

Chris DeAngelis is a Partner and the General Manager of Alliance Development Group (ADG). Chris is considered a leading expert on the Chinese technology scene and is regularly cited in leading media including The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Forbes, TechNode, MSNBC, Digital Trends, China Economic Review, International Business Times, Thomson Reuters and others. He has BS in Accounting from Lehigh University and an MBA from Columbia Business School. He has two daughters and has been living in Beijing since 2005.