Didi co-founder resigns as president

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Jean Liu will step down as president and board of directors of Didi, the Chinese ride-sharing giant she co-founded a decade ago and had led at the time of its failed US stock sale in 2021.

The 45-year-old, once a public ambassador for Didi and one of the most high-profile female leaders in Chinese tech, will remain with the company as chief people officer, according to an email sent by Didi boss Cheng Wei and Liu, to employees on Sunday.

He joined Didi from Goldman Sachs in 2014 and hosted Apple’s Tim Cook two years later in Beijing, securing $1 billion from the US tech giant to fuel Didi’s growth. He made billions more from investors like SoftBank. When violence broke out between drivers and passengers in a Didi car, she flew to the scene to console her relatives.

But after Beijing investigated the group’s $4.4 billion initial public offering in New York, Liu remained silent. The company was delisted and fined $1 billion by Chinese regulators for “vile” violations of the country’s data laws.

Liu made his years of posting on Weibo invisible and took on a more behind-the-scenes role at the company, two Didi employees said. Internally, many blamed her for pushing the IPO and for the company’s resulting regulatory problems, they said.

In 2023, his top lieutenant, Stephen Zhu, who had followed Liu to Didi from Goldman Sachs, resigned as head of Didi after previously losing his title as head of international business.

In her memo to staff, Cheng said that although Liu would no longer be president, “the departments and responsibilities under her leadership remain unchanged” and that she was his “closest comrade and partner.”

Liu will focus on “organizational transformation and talent development, and will work with me to advance the company’s social responsibility efforts,” Cheng wrote. He added that Didi would not name a new president.

Liu said she initiated the change to focus on Didi’s long-term growth, noting that she had “experienced many emotions and been deeply moved” during her 10 years with the company, and was “full of anticipation and excitement for the future.” “.

“Rest assured, I will continue to fight together with everyone to welcome the next 10 years at Didi in the best possible state,” he said.

Liu’s departure from executive positions could delay the company’s expected listing in Hong Kong, which shareholders have pushed for since the company moved to over-the-counter trading in the US in 2022. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange generally requires companies to wait a year for listing after changing top executives.

Liu’s title change comes as the Chinese group’s finances show signs of stabilization. Last year, Didi reduced its operating loss to 5.7 billion yuan ($790 million) and achieved a net profit of 535 million yuan with the help of investments and interest income.

The group retained most of its users during Beijing’s months-long investigation, during which its app was banned. In 2021, Chinese officials were stationed for months in their offices in Beijing.

The turmoil has left American investors with heavy losses. Didi’s share price is still 65 percent below its trading price of $14 per share and the debacle severely damaged investor confidence in Chinese tech companies. Beijing has yet to allow another big tech company to sell shares in the United States.

Additional reporting from Cheng Leng in Hong Kong

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