Since our founders first gathered in Jack Ma's apartment in 1999, they and our management have acted in the spirit of partnership. We view our culture as fundamental to our success and our ability to serve our customers, develop our employees and deliver long-term value to our shareholders. In July 2010, in order to preserve this spirit of partnership and to ensure the sustainability of our mission, vision and values, we decided to formalize our partnership as Lakeside Partners, named after the Lakeside Gardens residential community where Jack Ma and our other founders started our company. We refer to the partnership as the Alibaba Partnership.
We believe that our partnership approach has helped us better manage our business, with the peer nature of the partnership enabling senior managers to collaborate and override bureaucracy and hierarchy. The Alibaba Partnership currently has 32 members comprised of 24 members of our management, seven members of management of Ant Financial Services and one member of management of Cainiao Network. The number of partners in Alibaba Partnership is not fixed and may change from time to time due to the election of new partners, the retirement of partners and the departure of partners for other reasons.
Our partnership is a dynamic body that rejuvenates itself through admission of new partners each year, which we believe enhances our excellence, innovation and sustainability. Unlike dual-class ownership structures that employ a high-vote class of shares to concentrate control in a few founders, our approach is designed to embody the vision of a large group of management partners. This structure is our solution for preserving the culture shaped by our founders while at the same time accounting for the fact that founders will inevitably retire from the company.
Consistent with our partnership approach, all partnership votes are made on a one-partner-one-vote basis.
The partnership is governed by a partnership agreement and operates under principles, policies and procedures that have evolved with our business and are further described below.
The Alibaba Partnership elects new partners annually after a nomination process whereby existing partners propose candidates to the partnership committee. The partnership committee reviews the nominations and determines whether the nomination of a candidate will be proposed to the entire partnership for election. Election of new partners requires the approval of at least 75% of all of the partners.
To be eligible for election, a partner candidate must have demonstrated the following attributes:
We believe the criteria and process the Alibaba Partnership applicable to the election of new partners, as described above, promote accountability among the partners as well as to our customers, employees and shareholders. In order to align the interests of partners with the interests of our shareholders, we require that each partner maintain a meaningful level of equity interests in our company during such individual's tenure as a partner. Since a partner nominee must have been our employee or an employee of one of our related companies or affiliates for at least five years, as of the time he or she becomes a partner, he or she will typically already own or have been awarded a personally meaningful level of equity interest in our company through our equity incentive and share purchase plans.
The main duty of partners in their capacity as partners is to embody and promote our mission, vision and values. We expect partners to be evangelists for our mission, vision and values, both within our organization and externally to customers, business partners and other participants in our ecosystem.
The partnership committee must consist of at least five partners and is currently comprised of Jack Ma, Joe Tsai, Lucy Peng, Daniel Zhang and Eric Jing. The partnership committee is responsible for, among others, administering partner elections. Partnership committee members serve for a term of three years and may serve multiple terms. Elections of partnership committee members are held once every three years. Prior to each election, the partnership committee will nominate a number of partners equal to the number of partnership committee members that will serve in the next partnership committee term plus three additional nominees. Each partner votes for a number of nominees equal to the number of partnership committee members that will serve in the next partnership committee term and all except the three nominees who receive the least votes from the partners are elected to the partnership committee.
Pursuant to our articles of association, the Alibaba Partnership has the exclusive right to nominate or, in limited situations, appoint up to a simple majority of the members of our board of directors.
The election of each director nominee of the Alibaba Partnership will be subject to the director nominee receiving a majority vote from our shareholders voting at an annual general meeting of shareholders. If an Alibaba Partnership director nominee is not elected by our shareholders or after election departs our board of directors for any reason, the Alibaba Partnership has the right to appoint a different person to serve as an interim director of the class in which the vacancy exists until our next scheduled annual general meeting of shareholders. At the next scheduled annual general meeting of shareholders, the appointed interim director or a replacement Alibaba Partnership director nominee (other than the original nominee) will stand for election for the remainder of the term of the class of directors to which the original nominee would have belonged.
If at any time our board of directors consists of less than a simple majority of directors nominated or appointed by the Alibaba Partnership for any reason, including because a director previously nominated by the Alibaba Partnership ceases to be a member of our board of directors or because the Alibaba Partnership had previously not exercised its right to nominate or appoint a simple majority of our board of directors, the Alibaba Partnership will be entitled (in its sole discretion and without the need for any additional shareholder action) to appoint such number of additional directors to the board as necessary to ensure that the directors nominated or appointed by the Alibaba Partnership comprise a simple majority of our board of directors.
In determining the Alibaba Partnership director nominees who will stand for election to our board, the partnership committee will propose director nominees who will be voted on by all of the partners, and those nominees who receive a simple majority of the votes of the partners will be selected for such purposes. The director nominees of the Alibaba Partnership may be partners of the Alibaba Partnership or other qualified individuals who are not affiliated with the Alibaba Partnership.
The Alibaba Partnership’s right to nominate or appoint up to a simple majority of our directors is conditioned on the Alibaba Partnership being governed by the partnership agreement in effect as of the completion of our initial public offering in September 2014, or as may be amended in accordance with its terms from time to time. Any amendment to the provisions of the partnership agreement relating to the purpose of the partnership, or to the manner in which the Alibaba Partnership exercises its right to nominate a simple majority of our directors, will be subject to the approval of the majority of our directors who are not nominees or appointees of the Alibaba Partnership and are “independent directors” within the meaning of Section 303A of the New York Stock Exchange Listed Company Manual. The provisions relating to nomination rights and procedures described above are incorporated in our articles of association. Pursuant to our articles of association, the Alibaba Partnership’s nomination rights and related provisions of our articles of association may only be changed upon the vote of shareholders representing 95% of the votes present in person or by proxy at a general meeting of shareholders.
Our board of directors currently consists of eleven members, and five of these directors are Alibaba Partnership nominees. If at any time our board of directors consists of less than a simple majority of directors nominated or appointed by the Alibaba Partnership for any reason—including because the Alibaba Partnership had previously not exercised its right to nominate or appoint a simple majority of our board of directors —the Alibaba Partnership will be entitled (in its sole discretion and without the need for any additional shareholder approval) to nominate or appoint such number of additional directors as necessary to ensure that the directors nominated or appointed by the Alibaba Partnership comprise a simple majority of our board of directors. Accordingly, the Alibaba Partnership is entitled to nominate or appoint two additional directors to our board, which would increase the total number of directors to thirteen. We have entered into a voting agreement pursuant to which both SoftBank and Yahoo will agree to vote their shares in favor of the Alibaba Partnership director nominees at each annual general shareholders meeting so long as SoftBank owns at least 15% of our outstanding ordinary shares. Accordingly, for so long as SoftBank and Yahoo remain substantial shareholders, we expect the Alibaba Partnership nominees will receive a majority of votes cast at any meeting for the election of directors and will be elected as directors.
The following table sets forth the names, in alphabetical order by surname, and other information regarding the current 36 partners of the Alibaba Partnership.
|Name||Gender||Year Joined Alibaba Group||Current Position with Alibaba Group or Related/Affiliated Companies|
|M||2005||Chief Technology Officer, Ant Financial Services|
|Trudy Shan DAI
|F||1999||President of Wholesale Marketplaces|
|M||2007||Senior Vice President, Wealth Management Business, Ant Financial Services|
|M||2000||Director, Human Resources|
|Felix Xi HU
|M||2007||Chief Technology Architect, Ant Financial Services|
|Jane Fang JIANG
|F||1999||Deputy Chief People Officer|
|Eric Xiandong JING
|M||2007||Chief Executive Officer, Ant Financial Services|
|M||2006||Chief Risk Officer|
|Jack Yun MA
|M||2003||Principal Engineer, Ant Financial Services|
|Lucy Lei PENG
|F||1999||Chairman, Ant Financial Services|
|Sabrina Yijie PENG
|F||2000||Vice President, Ant Financial Services|
|M||2005||Senior Vice President, Director, Office of the Chairman|
|Timothy A. STEINERT||M||2007||General Counsel and Secretary|
|M||2002||General Manager, Rural Taobao|
|Judy Wenhong TONG
|Joseph C. TSAI
|M||1999||Executive Vice Chairman|
|M||2008||Chairman, Technology Steering Committee|
|M||2003||Senior Vice President|
|Winnie Jia WEN
|F||2007||Senior Director, Office of the Chairman|
|Sophie Minzhi WU
|F||2000||Chief Customer Officer|
|Maggie Wei WU
|F||2007||Chief Financial Officer|
|Eddie Yongming WU
|M||1999||Chairman, Alibaba Health|
|M||2004||Principal Engineer, Tmall|
|Sara Siying YU
|F||2005||Associate General Counsel, China|
|M||2014||Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Alibaba Digital Media & Entertainment Group|
|M||2006||Executive Vice President|
|Sam Songbai ZENG
|M||2012||Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Ant Financial Services|
|Jeff Jianfeng ZHANG
|M||2004||Chief Technology Officer|
|Daniel Yong ZHANG
|M||2007||Chief Executive Officer|
|F||2004||Vice President, Corporate Development|
|F||2005||Vice President, Ant Financial Services|
|Jessie Junfang ZHENG
|F||2010||Chief Platform Governance Officer|
Partners may elect to retire from the partnership at any time. All partners except continuity partners are required to retire upon reaching the age of sixty or upon termination of their qualifying employment. Continuity partners may remain partners until they elect to retire from the partnership, die or are incapacitated or are removed as partners. Either two or three partners may be designated as continuity partners at a time, with Jack Ma and Joe Tsai serving as the initial continuity partners. Continuity partners are either designated by a retiring continuity partner or by the serving continuity partners. Any partner, including continuity partners, may be removed upon the vote of a simple majority of all partners present at a duly-called meeting of partners for violations of certain standards set forth in the partnership agreement, including failure to actively promote our mission, vision and values, fraud, gross misconduct or gross negligence. As with other partners, continuity partners must maintain the shareholding levels required by us of all partners as described below. Partners who retire from the partnership upon meeting certain age and service requirements may be designated as honorary partners by the partnership committee. Honorary partners may not act as partners, but may be entitled to allocations from the deferred portion of the annual cash bonus pool described below as retirement pension payments. Continuity partners will not be eligible to receive allocations from the annual cash bonus pool if they cease to be our employees even if they remain partners, but may be entitled to receive allocations from the deferred bonus pool if they are honorary partners.
Under our articles of association, in connection with any change of control, merger or sale of our company, the partners and other holders of our ordinary shares shall receive the same consideration with respect to their ordinary shares in connection with any such transaction. In addition, our articles of association provide that the Alibaba Partnership may not transfer or otherwise delegate or give a proxy to any third party with respect to its right to nominate directors, although it may elect not to exercise its rights in full. In addition, as noted above, our articles of association also provide that the amendment of certain provisions of the Alibaba Partnership agreement relating to the purpose of the partnership or the manner in which the partnership exercises its rights to nominate or appoint a majority of our board of directors will require the approval of a majority of directors who are not appointees of the Alibaba Partnership and are “independent directors” within the meaning of Section 303A of the New York Stock Exchange Listed Company Manual.
Pursuant to the partnership agreement, amendment of the partnership agreement requires the approval of 75% of the partners in attendance at a meeting of the partners at which not less than 75% of all the partners are in attendance, except that the general partner may effect certain administrative amendments. In addition, certain amendments relating to the purposes of the Alibaba Partnership or the manner in which it exercises its nomination rights with respect to our directors require the approval of a majority of our independent directors not nominated or appointed by the Alibaba Partnership.
Each of the partners holds his or her equity interests in our company directly as an individual or through his or her affiliates. We have entered into share retention agreements with each partner. These agreements provide that a period of three years from the date on which such person becomes a partner, or for 27 of the existing partners, from January 1, 2014, three of the existing partners, from August 26, 2014, and four of the existing partners, from December 8, 2015, we require that each partner retain at least 60% of the equity interests (including unvested shares and shares underlying vested and unvested awards) that he or she held on the starting date of such three-year period. Following the initial three-year holding period and for so long as he or she remains a partner, we require that the partner retain at least 40% of the equity interests (including unvested shares and shares underlying vested and unvested awards) that he or she held on the starting date of the initial three-year holding period. Exceptions to the holding period rules described in the share retention agreements must be approved by a majority of the independent directors.