Caixin
Nov 17, 2016 05:12 PM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Ctrip's Liang Steps Down as CEO for Second Time

(Beijing) — The CEO of China's top travel-booking firm, Ctrip.com International Ltd., stepped down from the position after leading the company for more than a decade.

James Jianzhang Liang will continue to serve as the company's chairman and take the role of executive chairman of the board to focus on company strategy and initiatives relating to innovation, international expansion, information technology, investments and strategic alliances, Ctrip said in a statement on Wednesday.

Jane Jie Sun, the company's former chief operating officer, will replace Liang as the new CEO and also join the board of directors.

The company did not specify the reason for Liang's decision to step down.

"Liang has been studying demographics and writing columns for Caixin in recent years, as he focuses more on ideological guidelines for the company," said an employee at Ctrip. "But Sun is a pragmatist and pays more attention to the company's day-to-day business. They're a perfect match — but I didn't expect to see this new appointment coming so fast."

Liang, 47, has been the soul of the company since its inception in 1999, when he co-founded Ctrip and made it prominent as one of the country's first travel-booking websites.

He left the company in 2007 to pursue a doctorate in economics from Stanford University. During his absence, the company's profits dropped as new entrants such as Tuniu Corp., Qunar Cayman Islands Ltd. and eLong Inc. grabbed more market share.

Liang resumed the role of CEO in 2013, and under his leadership Ctrip spent tens of billions of yuan buying shares in its competitors over the next three years. The company cemented its position as the country's largest online travel-service provider after becoming the major shareholder in rivals eLong and Qunar in 2015.

Its shopping spree continued as the company announced a complex plan to raise $2.5 billion in September, raising speculation over the company's future expansion plans.

With these acquisitions, competition has become less fierce and "Liang's departure has opened up opportunities for other senior executives," said Wei Changren, CEO of industry website Ctcnn.com. "This is not like his departure in 2007. He will still take care of business" if needed.

Sun joined Ctrip in 2005 as chief financial officer before becoming Ctrip's COO in 2012. She was promoted to co-president in March 2015.

"Jane and I have been working together for 11 years. She has played a critical role in defining the company's strategic direction, managing business operations and making strategic investments and acquisitions. She has created the current corporate structure and cultivated a new generation of talented business leaders," Liang said in the statement.

Along with Sun's appointment, Ctrip also announced several personnel changes in a reshuffle of its senior executives. Sun Maohua, former CEO of Ctrip's accommodation group, was promoted to chief operating officer. Chen Zhenyu, CEO of Qunar, will concurrently take the role of director of Ctrip's innovation and talent committee.

Contact reporter Chen Na (nachen@caixin.com); editor Calum Gordon (calum@caixin.com)

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