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JD.com's Liu steps down from key subsidiary board

E-commerce group seeks to improve image after sexual assault lawsuit

Richard Liu, CEO and founder of JD.com, gestures before ringing the opening bell at the NASDAQ Market Site building at Times Square in New York in May 2014.   © Reuters

DALIAN, China -- Richard Liu, the embattled founder and CEO of China's No. 2 e-commerce company JD.com, has stepped down from the board of Beijing Jingdong Century Trade, a core subsidiary in the group, it was learned Saturday.

While Liu remains the CEO of the whole group, the move is seen as an attempt to turn around its image, which was tarnished after Liu was arrested in the U.S. in August 2018 on rape charges.

According to business data research company Tianyancha, Liu is no longer a legal representative or an executive at the subsidiary. He has been replaced by Lei Xu, the head of JD Retail, who is responsible for the development, operation and strategy of the company's retail business.

A JD.com spokesperson said in a statement that this was an ordinary change of management. Chinese media has reported that Liu has resigned from boards of over 40 group companies this year.

Liu, who founded JD.com in 1998, holds about 15% of the company and is a towering figure within the group. But at an earnings conference in 2018, he talked about being interested in building a team more than focusing on himself.

The alleged assault of a Chinese university student took place in the U.S. state of Minnesota during a business trip in August 2018. Prosecutors announced later that year that Liu would face no criminal charges due to the lack of evidence. In April 2019, his accuser filed a lawsuit against the CEO seeking damages. Liu has denied all wrongdoing and the lawsuit is still pending.

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