Tech Exec Yu Yongfu Named CEO of Alibaba Pictures

Yu Yongfu - Getty - H 2016
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A star of China's internet sector, the 40-year-old executive has little film experience, but he joins Jack Ma's fledging studio at a crucial juncture.

Chinese internet tycoon Jack Ma is shaking up the executive ranks at his fledging film studio, Alibaba Pictures Group.

Yu Yongfu, a 40-year-old tech entrepreneur and relative newcomer to the Alibaba Group, has been named CEO of the film subsidiary, the company reported in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Monday. Yu replaces Zhang Qiang, a local industry veteran and former head of China Film Group. Zhang has been shifted to a co-president role and will remain on the board, with no change to his remuneration, Alibaba's statement said.

Yu's rise within Alibaba has been swift and relentless. He joined the parent company in 2014, when UCWeb, the mobile internet company he then headed as CEO, was fully acquired by Alibaba in a deal valued at more than $2 billion. In May 2015, he was named president of Alibaba Group's mobile internet division. 

Although he has limited experience in the film business, he now has full control of Alibaba Pictures Group. Just last month he was named chairman of APG, replacing Shao Xiaofeng, who left the board. He also holds titles as chairman of Alibaba's Digital Media & Entertainment Group and chairman of APG's nomination committee, and he has a seat on its remuneration committee.

Originally from Inner Mongolia, Yu studied business management at Nankai University in Tianjin. He first made his mark on China's internet sector as a founding member and eventual vice president of Legend Capital, the venture capital firm of Legend Holdings, best known as the controlling shareholder of Chinese computing giant Lenovo.

Yu comes to the helm of Alibaba Pictures at a crucial juncture for the upstart studio. Although it has inked multiple Hollywood partnerships — including taking a stake in Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and making minority investments in Paramount titles like Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation — it has yet to release a movie fully on its own. In November, APG hired Harry Potter producer David Heyman to develop a potential film franchise from the bestselling young-adult book series Warriors. The studio also has multiple Chinese-language projects in production, including the $100 million fantasy Asura, Renny Harlin's Legend of the Ancient Sword, Stephen Chow's Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons 2 and Ferryman, produced by Wong Kar Wai and starring Tony Leung.