China-based Alibaba Group will appoint Jonathan Lu to serve as the firm's CEO, effective on May 10, the company has announced. Lu will succeed founder Jack Ma, the former English teacher who built Alibaba into the most dominant e-commerce firm in Asia. "Serving as Alibaba Group CEO is an extremely challenging and difficult job, especially succeeding a founder CEO like me," Ma wrote, in an e-mail to employees this week. "Jonathan has impressed with his curiosity and ability to grasp new ideas, his judgment and decisiveness, and his strong execution capabilities."
Lu has worked at Alibaba since 2000, most recently holding the position of chief data officer. Lu has extensive experience as an executive, having overseen each of Alibaba's major divisions during his tenure, including Alipay, Taobao and Alibaba.com. Lu was tapped in 2011 by Ma to restore confidence in Alibaba.com following a fraud scandal that officials say cheated overseas buyers of several million dollars. Despite the recent controversy, though, Alibaba.com remains a major factor in the ad specialty industry, as thousands of promotional products can be purchased directly from the site.
While Lu will be responsible for day-to-day operations, Alibaba has said that the 48-year-old Ma, a member of Counselor's Power 50, will retain the title of chairman. Analysts expect him to guide the overall vision of Alibaba, as the company prepares for a likely multibillion-dollar initial public offering later this year. Founded in 1999, Alibaba is worth an estimated $55 billion, according to British banking firm Barclays. A 2012 report showed over a nine-month period, the company's profit more than tripled to $781.7 million, with sales increasing 74% to $2.9 billion.