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Alibaba Pictures, the film unit of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has appointed Zhang Wei, head of its L.A. office, as president of its film unit as the group tries to bring its entertainment business into line.
Currently Zhang Wei is senior vp of Alibaba, responsible for overseas business and investment.
Deng Kangming, who was previously senior president and human resources chief at Alibaba, will be responsible for legal business, finance, human resources and market relations, according to a news release.
Alibaba, founded and run by Jack Ma, spent more than $3 billion in the entertainment industry last year, and the cash-rich company went window shopping for content and even potential acquisitions in Hollywood, but has yet to make a major move.
Both execs will report to Alibaba Pictures CEO Zhang Qiang (no relation). Zhang Qiang will continue to take care of content development and production.
Zhang Qiang said that after a year of consolidation, Alibaba Pictures was ready to advance to the next stage quickly. He said that under the group’s new organizational structure, Alibaba Pictures would speed up market expansion and become an online entertainment company that would make a significant impact on the industry.
Zhang Wei is a Harvard MBA and former talk-show host who has worked at Alibaba in various capacities since 2008, serving before that as COO in charge of TV power Star’s operations in China.
Her resume includes stints as managing director of CNBC China, a consultant to Bain & Co. and finance specialist for General Electric Co.
Alibaba’s efforts to boost its entertainment business have been dogged by setbacks.
Alibaba Pictures racked up a net loss of $53.56 million last year, down from a profit of $24 million a year earlier.
Soon after Alibaba bought control of ChinaVision Media Group to form Alibaba Pictures a year ago, it discovered various accounting irregularities, relating to tax and VAT misstatements over the purchase of art works and TV copyrights, as well as certain TV drama production costs.
In July, Patrick Liu, president of Alibaba’s digital entertainment unit was detained over issues related to his time as head of Tencent Holdings Ltd’s video division.
Alibaba Pictures raised $807 million last year from a share offering that put Alibaba in control of the company. To date, Alibaba Pictures has used very little of this war chest.
The group is involved in a slate of films to be produced by Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, including Bai Du Ren, which will be directed by the novelist Zhang Jiajia and feature Tony Leung as the lead actor.
The group recorded revenues of $16.33 million last year, down from $45.1 million a year earlier, which included income from stakes in Peter Chan‘s Dearest and Ning Hao‘s Breakup Buddies, as well as the TV drama Bayonet Hero.
In April, Alibaba said that it would incorporate its Taobao Movie online ticketing business and its Yulebao production crowdfunding platform into Alibaba Pictures as it tries to stem losses at the group. In August, Alibaba and Ma’s Yunfeng Capital bought a $1.2 billion stake in online video website Youku Tudou.
Zhang Wei graduated from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa., with a bachelor’s degree in international organizational management before getting her MBA from Harvard.
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