Chinese microblogging platform Weibo announced on Monday that Daniel Zhang, chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group, has stepped down from its board of directors. Dong Benhong, chief marketing officer of Alibaba Group, will take over Zhang’s position as a new board member of Weibo.
The change comes at a time when Chinese regulators are moving to curb the country’s tech giants’ wide-reaching influence in the media space. Alibaba has reportedly been considering selling its stake in Weibo to Shanghai Media Group, a state-owned conglomerate, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Currently, Alibaba owns roughly 30% of Weibo, and has not publicly stated its intention to exit this position.
Since 2011, Alibaba has been actively investing in China’s media sector and has built up a sprawling portfolio that contains more than 40 media assets. It holds stakes in various companies, including Weibo, video streaming site Bilibili, and Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post.
Chinese authorities want Alibaba to offload some of its media holdings out of concerns that the company holds outsized influence that can sway public opinion, Bloomberg reported in March 2021.
The e-commerce giant has sold some of its media assets in recent months. In September 2021, Alibaba divested all of its nine-month-old shares in Mango Excellent Media, an entertainment television network, at an estimated loss of RMB 2.3 billion (USD 356 million).
In December 2021, before Zhang’s recusal from Weibo’s board of directors, he departed the board of Didi, where he had served as a director since 2018.