China's Alibaba Pictures Ousts Senior Board Member After Graft Allegations

Alibaba Generic H 2015
AP Images/Invision

The company said it hasn't been able to contact the executive since July, when he was detained by Chinese authorities over corruption allegations tied to his time at Tencent Holdings.

Alibaba Pictures, the rapidly expanding entertainment subsidiary of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, has removed a senior member of its board of directors following the executive's entanglement in a corruption investigation last summer.

Patrick Liu Chunning briefly served as president of Alibaba's digital entertainment business before he was detained by Chinese authorities in July over allegations of graft. The alleged malfeasance is said to have occurred during Liu's tenure as a vice president at rival tech company Tencent Holdings.

In a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange Thursday, Alibaba Pictures chairman Shao Xiaofeng said the company had been unable to contact Liu since the summer, adding that the executive “failed to attend any board meetings and general meetings of the company for a consecutive period of more than six months since June 11, 2015 without special leave of absence from the board.”

Liu was removed from Alibaba Pictures' board pursuant to the company's articles of association, the South China Morning Post reported.

Shao added that Liu's ouster would in no way negatively impact Alibaba Pictures' business.

Liu's arrest is part of an ongoing corruption crackdown initiated by Chinese president Xi Jinping two years ago. Dozens of prominent business leaders have been swept up in the campaign, as well as hundreds of communist party officials at all levels of government.

When Chinese companies announce that they have "lost contact" with an executive, the staffer is generally presumed detained by the authorities. Some of the individuals reappear and return to work; others do not. Official explanations are seldom offered.

Last month, Guo Guangchang, the founder of Fosun Group, which is bankrolling Jeff Robinov's Studio 8 venture at Sony, made headlines worldwide when he suddenly went missing. The billionaire re-emerged two days later with an explanation that he had been "assisting the authorities" with an investigation that concerned his personal affairs — but that didn't prevent Fosun's stock price from plummeting some 10 percent when it resumed trading after an emergency suspension.

On Thursday, Alibaba Pictures also announced the addition of company president Zhang Wei, COO Deng Kaming and Alipay president Fan Luyuan to its board of directors. Chinese actor Jet Li, Shao and CEO Zhang Qiang also sit on the board.

The company also said that it has completed its takeover of Taobao Movie, a digital ticketing platform, and Yulebao, a crowdfunding service. Ali Pictures announced in November that it would acquire the two entertainment businesses from the Alibaba Group parent company for $520 million in cash.

Alibaba Pictures is set to release its first film, Ferryman, in mid-2016. Produced by Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai, the movie is directed by novelist Zhang Jiajia and stars Tony Leung.