Autohome Inc. (NYSE: ATHM), one of China’s two listed pure-play verticals for auto listings, announced on Oct. 3 that the company’s former president Li Xiang and its former CEO James Qin Zhi had resigned from its board of directors with effect Sept. 30, 2016.
This was the final act in a boardroom struggle in which the two former directors tried to prevent control from passing to Ping An Insurance Group Co., China’s second-largest insurer, after Australia’s Telstra Corporation had sold most of its stake in Autohome in April this year.
Their rearguard battle included the threat of legal action.
Qin joined Autohome in 2007, became a director in 2008 and was appointed CEO of Autohome in 2009. From 2006 to 2007 Qin served as chief operating officer of 265.com; from 2005 to 2006 he worked for McKinsey & Company as an associate; between 1999 and 2003 he was a software engineer at Northern Telecom.
Li focused mainly on content creation and product development in Autohome. He was executive vice president of the company from 2008 to May 2013, when he was promoted to president, a position held until June 2015.
Li was one of the pioneers of auto sites in China. In 2000, he founded the Pcpop.com site, which began commercial operation in 2003. Now a billionaire, he is chairman and general manager of Family and Car Co. and Beijing Car and Home Information Technology Corporation, established in April 2015 with RMB 300 million ($50 million U.S.).
Market commentators have suggested that with his interest in electric vehicles, he may become China’s equivalent of Elon Musk.