Meet Alibaba's New CEO Daniel Zhang

Alibaba announced that its new chief executive will take the reigns on May 10.

ByABC News
May 7, 2015, 1:07 PM
Daniel Zhang Yong is pictured in Hangzhou City, China on Nov. 12, 2014.
Daniel Zhang Yong is pictured in Hangzhou City, China on Nov. 12, 2014.
AP Photo

— -- Alibaba fans and investors are wide-eyed after the announcement that the Chinese tech firm's new CEO Daniel Zhang is an eight-year company veteran and a "key architect" behind the world's largest online shopping event.

Zhang, who had been COO of the company since September 2013, was described by the company as a "key architect" of the "Singles Day" event on Nov. 11, 2014, which produced record sales of more than $9 billion.

Zhang will replace CEO Jonathan Lu starting on Sunday, Alibaba announced today along with its fourth quarter earnings, which were higher than Wall Street's expectations.

After reaching its lowest stock level earlier this week, shares of Alibaba rebounded on the news of the earnings and possibly with investor enthusiasm with the new leadership.

PHOTO: Jonathan Lu Zhaoxi is pictured in Chengdu City, China on Dec. 16, 2014.
Jonathan Lu Zhaoxi is pictured in Chengdu City, China on Dec. 16, 2014.

Here are some things you should know about Zhang:

1. He wears many hats

Zhang joined Alibaba with a major leadership role in August 2007 as chief financial officer of Taobao Marketplace, which is described as a consumer-to-consumer website like eBay. The following year, he was appointed as COO of that same business and general manager of Taobao Mall, now, which allows businesses to sell goods to consumers.

2. Everything he touches turns to gold, so far

Under Zhang, the company says in a press release today: "Taobao Mall rapidly became one of Alibaba’s most important businesses and was highly recognized by consumers and brands in China and around the world."

In 2011, he was named president when it became the independent business unit

Alibaba Group's founder and executive chairman is singing his praises.

“Daniel is a proven international business leader and innovator with a strong track record of delivering results. He has the confidence of our entire management team, and there is no better person to lead Alibaba Group as we embark on the next stage of our growth on top of the strong foundation that Jonathan helped build,” Ma said in the company's press release today.

3. Numbers guy

He has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, then worked at big accounting firms like Arthur Andersen and Pricewaterhouse Coopers

4. Switch to tech

He was later CFO of Shanda Interactive Entertainment Limited, an online game developer and operator from August 2005 to August 2007, his CrunchBase profile states.

5. The right time for Zhang

Columbia Business School associate professor of business Kinshuk Jerath said Alibaba was going rough patch in terms of share price, not so much actual growth, after expectations from it became sky high after its largest global IPO ever on Sept. 19, 2014.

"It was clear that the previous CEO, Jonathan Lu, was unable to arrest this trend even after several months and a change was needed at the top to generate investor confidence," Jerath said. "Daniel Zhang was a natural and safe choice, since he is the current COO and has direct experience with Taobao and TMall."

Alibaba faces major perception problems in that business, stemming from the fake merchandise episode a few months ago. But it helps that Zhang led some of Alibaba's recent initiatives like the "hugely successful" Singles Day, Jerath said.

"Having said that, I tend to feel that if Alibaba had not been public there would have been no change of CEO, this is likely in response to investor sentiment and that is the price of going public," Jerath said.