SHANGHAI -- Suning.com has named the former head of an Alibaba Group Holding-owned supermarket chain as its new chairman after founder Zhang Jindong stepped down from the helm of the troubled Chinese retail group.
Peter Huang Ming-tuan, now a director at Sun Art Retail Group, replaces interim Chairman Ren Jun, a longtime Suning executive. Zhang stays on as honorary chairman.
With the appointment announced this week, Suning hopes to strengthen its partnership with Alibaba -- a major shareholder in the company -- as it tries to turn around its struggling retail operations.
Sun Art, where Huang served as CEO until May, operates about 500 hypermarkets in China under brands including RT-Mart. Sun Art kept up strong results during the pandemic thanks partly to an e-commerce partnership with Alibaba.
Zhang remains in effect Suning's top shareholder with a 21.74% stake through direct and indirect holdings. Alibaba, which bought into Suning in 2016, owns 19.99% of the company.
Suning got its start as an electronics retailer before broadening its scope with such moves as its 2019 acquisition of the Chinese supermarket business of France's Carrefour Group. The group now includes Japanese duty-free store operator Laox and storied Italian soccer club Inter Milan.
But the rapid growth of unprofitable stores, coupled with a pandemic-inflicted slump, has sent its earnings into a nosedive. Zhang and other shareholders recently reached a deal to sell some of their Suning shares, raising 8.8 billion yuan ($1.36 billion) from a government-led fund.