×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Head of Alibaba’s Youku Sacked, Under Police Investigation for Corruption

Yang Weidong, president of Alibaba’s video-streaming platform, Youku, has been fired and is under police investigation for corruption, the company confirmed Tuesday. Alibaba Pictures chairman and CEO Fan Luyuan will take over running China’s equivalent of YouTube, while also continuing in his current capacity.

Yang, who also served as head of Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment Group, is one of the leading figures in China’s fast-growing streaming video business. There was no formal announcement of his ouster, but a spokesperson for Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment referred to Yang as “ex-president” and told Variety that the exec “is understood to be assisting mainland authorities with an investigation into an alleged case of seeking economic benefits.” No further details were provided.

Alibaba had already been internally investigating Yang for some time, respected Chinese finance magazine Caijing reported Tuesday, adding that the suspected corruption likely had to do with “problems with revenue and expenditures” tied to Youku’s variety show “This Is,” launched earlier this year. The “economic benefits” in question may involve more than 100 million yuan ($14.6 million), according to Chinese business news website huxiu.

“This Is” targeted younger viewers and millennials with reality show competitions on subjects such as basketball, singing, and robot fighting. The first and most popular, known as “Street Dance of China,” sought to capitalize on the interest in hip-hop culture sparked by runaway reality hit “The Rap of China” after authorities expressed consternation for hip-hop-related content appearing on television.

Yang’s apparent fall from grace comes just five days after his most recent public appearance at an industry conference in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu on Nov. 29. A glowing profile of him in China Entrepreneur Magazine two months ago quoted him as saying: “I fear when others are greedy, and am greedy when others are afraid.”

Yang is not the first Youku or Alibaba media executive to fall afoul of the authorities. In 2016, former Youku vice president Lu Fanxi was detained on corruption charges. In 2015, Patrick Liu Chunning was arrested and tried on charges of corruption involving 2.14 million yuan (about $313,000 at current exchange rates) in bribes received while at a prior job with Tencent Video. Kong Qi was similarly arrested while working for Alibaba Pictures, on suspicion of offenses committed while he, too, was at Tencent.  

The sudden change at the top of Youku comes after a recent restructuring within Alibaba Group, announced last Monday. Alibaba Pictures’ Fan had already been designated to succeed Yang as rotating president of the wider Digital Media and Entertainment group.

Patrick Frater contributed to this report.

More Digital

  • eOne Names Bill Wilson Senior VP

    eOne Names Bill Wilson Senior VP

    Entertainment One (“eOne”) has tapped Bill Wilson as Senior Vice President Digital Operations and Innovation, Music, the company announced today. Wilson will oversee all aspects of digital strategy across the company’s music business, including label service, talent management, music publishing and live entertainment, according to the announcement.  Wilson will be based in New York City and [...]

  • Jennifer Kaytin Robinson Someone Great

    'Someone Great' Director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson on Reimagining the Rom-Com

    Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, creator of the MTV series “Sweet/Vicious,” recently made her feature debut with “Someone Great,”  now streaming on Netflix. The film follows three friends as they navigate relationships and work in New York City.  Here, the writer-director opens up on reimagining the rom-com, and women changing the face of Hollywood. The three young [...]

  • Hulu-Logo

    Comcast Mulling Sale of Hulu Stake to Disney (Report)

    Comcast is holding talks with Disney to see if they can hammer out a deal to sell Comcast’s one-third stake in Hulu to the Mouse House — which would give Disney full control over Hulu, CNBC reported. The report comes a little over a week after AT&T sold its 9.5% stake in Hulu to the [...]

  • Cox Cable Testing a Form of

    Cox Cable Testing Gamer Network Service to Reduce Lag

    UPDATED: Cox Cable is testing a new “Elite Gamer Service” that is designed to speed up connections between gamers and games, but which the company says doesn’t prioritize internet use. The service began testing in Arizona this week and Cox tells Variety it plans to run the test for about three weeks. The $15 a [...]

  • Angie-Nwandu-The-Shade-Room

    The Shade Room, a Top Instagram Celebrity and Gossip Publisher, Unveils First Slate of Original Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Shade Room, a top Instagram-based media publisher focused on black culture, entertainment and celebrity gossip, is launching three new original series on the social platform. The five-year-old venture, the brainchild of entrepreneur Angelica Nwandu, runs one of the most highly engaged accounts on Instagram: @TheShadeRoom, which has 15.3 million followers (referred to as “Roommates”), [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content