Alibaba exec fired for helping girlfriend secure job, accepting gifts


The Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. headquarters stand illuminated at night ahead of the annual November 11 Singles’ Day online shopping event in Hangzhou, China, on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Alibaba has fired the head of its fast-growing livestreaming business for allegedly engaging in nepotism and accepting gifts, according to an internal memo obtained by CNBC.

Zhao Yang led Taobao Live, the livestreaming product of Alibaba-owned e-commerce site Taobao. The memo says he allegedly helped a third-party livestreaming company secure a contract with Taobao Live.

The memo also alleges that Zhao arranged for his girlfriend to work at that same livestreaming agency, and that she was paid for the job.

Zhao attended an external business conference where he accepted money, according to the memo. He also accepted food, lodging and gifts from other live broadcasting agencies, the memo says. 

An Alibaba spokesperson declined to comment on the reason for Zhao’s departure when contacted by CNBC. Caixin Global first reported the existence of the memo on Tuesday. 

CNBC was unsuccessful in attempts to contact Zhao. Though earlier reports indicated that Zhao has a social media account on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, a subsequent search by CNBC turned up no active accounts under that name.

The memo did not say when Zhao was fired or how an internal investigation was conducted.

Livestreaming drives a small but growing portion of e-commerce revenues in China and is seen as a hot new trend. Often, internet influencers or high-profile people will start a livestream which talks about a product. Then viewers can buy the product from inside the video. 

For Alibaba, Taobao Live is its main livestreaming product, one that it is pushing very heavily. In the fiscal year ended March, gross merchandise volume (GMV) generated from livestreaming grew over 100% from last year, Alibaba said in its earnings release at the time without giving a value. GMV relates to the the value of products sold across Alibaba’s platforms. 

Zhao’s case marks another high-profile individual who has fallen foul of Alibaba’s internal rules. 

In April, Jiang Fan, who oversaw the Taobao and Tmall businesses, was demoted, according to Reuters. Alibaba took the action following an investigation into improper behavior in relation to speculation around his alleged relationship with a Chinese social media influencer, Reuters reported. 


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