Ma, who announced his impending retirement last year, was previously one of only two shareholders of Taobao — China’s biggest online retail platform. Taobao was long known to be Ma’s passion project within Alibaba, and he oversaw major changes in the platform over the course of the past decade. This includes a recent shift toward content production and live streaming (see below).
The entity’s shares are now controlled entirely by a single corporation owned by five other members of Alibaba’s current management team: current CEO Daniel Zhang, along with Zhao Ying, Zheng Junfang, Tong Wenhong, and Shao Xiaofeng.
Alibaba acknowledged the change in an official statement Monday, saying it was implied in its annual financial report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in July.
The Alibaba Group, like many other Chinese tech companies listed in the U.S., bases its shareholding relationships on a complicated VIE structure, under which more than a dozen business units, including Taobao, operate from the headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Notably, this is the fifth time Ma and his partners have made this kind of transfer for shares they owned in an Alibaba unit, according to open records.
Earlier this week Taobao announced a partnership with one China’s “big two” live streaming platforms, Bilibili. The two will collaborate on expanding live streaming options and infrastructure on Taobao, and on building greater synergy between the two sites.
Live streaming has become a massive part of Taobao’s function in the past year through the Taobao Live platform. The site currently hosts more than 10,000 content creators, offering different registration processes and mechanisms for individuals and businesses. Over the past year, users have watched more than 140 million hours of live streaming — equivalent to 15,800 years, according to a survey conducted by Chinese media.