Alibaba Group’s Daniel Zhang Steps Down from Cloud Business Role

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group announced an unexpected leadership change in its cloud business unit just two months after unveiling a major company restructuring plan. Daniel Zhang, who was serving as chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group, chairman of the cloud business, and group CEO, will be leaving his post leading the cloud division.

Leadership Transition timeframe

On September 10, 2023, Alibaba announced that Zhang would hand over his role as group CEO to recently appointed Eddie Wu as originally scheduled under the restructuring plan announced in March 2023.

However, in an unexpected move, Zhang also relinquished his concurrent position as chairman and CEO of Alibaba’s Cloud Intelligence division. Wu will take over leadership of the cloud business immediately in an acting capacity.

Reasons for Zhang’s cloud business departure

In an internal letter to employees, Alibaba co-founder Joseph Tsai stated that Daniel Zhang had “expressed his wish to transition away from his role as chairman and CEO of Cloud Intelligence Group.”

The letter indicated that after careful consideration, Alibaba’s board “respected and accepted Daniel’s decision” to step back from the cloud leadership role. No explicit reasons were provided for Zhang’s desire to depart the position after just a few months.

Zhang’s future contributions

Although no longer heading the cloud unit, Daniel Zhang will continue contributing his expertise to Alibaba in a different capacity.

The internal letter revealed that Alibaba will invest $1 billion in a technology fund that Zhang will now establish instead of leading the cloud business. The fund aims to support Alibaba’s growth strategy and technology ecosystem development.

Ongoing cloud business plans

Despite Zhang’s withdrawal, Alibaba emphasized that its cloud division spin-off and public listing plans remain on track. The company still aims to complete an initial public offering (IPO) for the cloud business within the next 12 months.


The cloud unit will move forward under new leadership, with Eddie Wu now taking over Zhang’s responsibilities until a permanent appointment is made. Alibaba remains committed to executing its restructuring and cloud IPO strategy.

Broader leadership reshuffling

Daniel Zhang’s surprise cloud business departure comes amid a broader reshuffling of Alibaba’s leadership structure announced earlier this year.

Restructuring goals

In March 2023, Alibaba unveiled plans to reorganize its sprawling e-commerce and tech businesses into six distinct units. Each unit would have its own CEO and oversight board structure.

The restructuring aimed to streamline operations, empower management teams, and optimize growth strategies across Alibaba’s varied business lines.

New leadership appointments

Along with the restructuring, Alibaba announced several executive appointments to lead the new business units:

– Daniel Zhang – Group CEO, Chairman of Cloud business

– Maggie Wu – Group CFO

– Eddie Wu – Head of Local Consumer Services business

– Toby Xu – Head of International Commerce business

– Jeff Zhang – Head of Taobao and Tmall

– Trudy Dai – Head of Customer Service business

Cloud spin-off plans

Alibaba also highlighted that its cloud computing division would become a standalone business unit as part of the restructuring.

The cloud unit was slated to eventually be spun off and taken public through an IPO within 12 months. Daniel Zhang was appointed chairman and CEO to oversee the cloud transition.

Impact on Alibaba’s cloud computing business

Daniel Zhang’s unforeseen departure from the helm of Alibaba Cloud will likely delay the public listing timeline and impact operations in the near-term.

IPO delays possible 


With new leadership coming in, it may take time for strategic direction and IPO plans to get sorted out. The 12 month timeline for a cloud business IPO may get pushed back.

Operational uncertainty 

Sudden senior leadership changes often create uncertainty around priorities and strategic plans. The cloud unit may see some operational instability as it adjusts.

Maintaining growth trajectory

Alibaba Cloud has been growing rapidly and leading China’s competitive cloud market. With Zhang’s exit, maintaining strong growth momentum will be crucial.

Staff morale concerns

Such an abrupt leadership change could negatively impact organization morale, especially if the reasons for Zhang’s departure emerge. Maintaining staff motivation will be important.

Eddie Wu’s New Role Overseeing Cloud Business

As group CEO Daniel Zhang hands over the reins of the cloud unit, Eddie Wu steps in to take over daily operations and leadership.

Eddie Wu’s background

Eddie Wu previously served as head of Alibaba’s Local Consumer Services business unit, covering food delivery and location-based services divisions.

Wu has been with Alibaba Group for over 14 years in various senior technology and business leadership positions across the organization.

Management experience

In his role leading local consumer services, Wu oversaw various e-commerce and delivery businesses with thousands of employees.

This experience managing multi-billion dollar operations equips him well to steer Alibaba’s cloud computing division.

Technology expertise

Wu brings technology expertise from his long tenure at Alibaba Group in various technology and digital operations roles.

His tech background will be invaluable in directing Alibaba’s market-leading cloud services.

Streamlined leadership

With Wu taking over the cloud business, leadership is streamlined from Zhang’s concurrent 3 top roles.

This enables Wu to focus exclusively on cloud operations.

Maintaining continuity

While the change is abrupt, Wu’s deep experience in Alibaba Group provides continuity to keep the cloud business on track.

As an Alibaba veteran, he understands the company’s vision and strategic priorities for the cloud unit.


Daniel Zhang’s departure from leading Alibaba Cloud is an unexpected twist in the e-commerce giant’s restructuring plans. However, Alibaba appears committed to stay the course on its cloud spin-off and IPO agenda despite this leadership change.

Eddie Wu’s technology and management expertise position him well to maintain continuity in the cloud division. But some uncertainty and delays in the cloud IPO timeline seem likely given the abrupt leadership turnover.

How exactly Zhang’s departure will impact Alibaba’s cloud computing operations and growth trajectory remains to be seen. But the company is forging ahead with its ambitious restructuring while aiming to keep the cloud business momentum going strong.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Daniel Zhang stepping down from Alibaba Cloud?

The exact reasons are unclear, but Alibaba stated Zhang expressed a desire to transition away from the role after just 2 months. This was an unexpected move.

Who is taking over leadership of Alibaba Cloud?

Eddie Wu, the former head of Alibaba’s Local Consumer Services business, is becoming acting chairman and CEO of the cloud unit.

How does this impact plans to spin-off and IPO the cloud business?

Alibaba still aims to execute the cloud spin-off and IPO within 12 months but delays seem likely given the leadership change.

What experience does Eddie Wu bring to lead the cloud business?

Wu is an Alibaba veteran with 14 years at the company. He brings technology expertise and experience managing multi-billion dollar businesses.

How could Zhang’s departure affect Alibaba Cloud’s operations?

There may be some uncertainty around plans and morale with this abrupt change. Maintaining growth momentum will also be crucial for the new leadership.


Final Thoughts

Daniel Zhang’s surprising decision to step down from leading Alibaba’s cloud unit raises some questions around the e-commerce giant’s transition plans for its cloud business. While Alibaba appears confident in Eddie Wu’s ability to steer the division forward, Zhang’s unforeseen exit could bring some instability in the short-term.

The next 12 months will be critical for the new cloud leadership to maintain strong momentum and progress towards a public listing. How smoothly Alibaba navigates this abrupt management shakeup could impact the future growth and competitiveness of its cloud services.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *