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 to 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 36 members. The number of partners in the Alibaba Partnership 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, or the partnership committee, as described below. 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 of 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 his or her 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 or investment 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 digital economy.
The partnership committee must consist of at least five but no more than seven partners, including partnership committee continuity members, and is currently comprised of Jack Ma, Joe Tsai, Daniel Zhang, Lucy Peng, Eric Jing and Jian Wang. The partnership committee is responsible for administering partner elections and allocating the relevant portion of the annual cash bonus pool for all partner members of management, with any amounts payable to partners who are our executive officers or directors or members of the partnership committee subject to approval of the compensation committee of our board of directors. Either one or two partners may be designated as partnership committee continuity partners, and currently the partnership committee continuity members consist of Jack Ma and Joe Tsai. Other than partnership committee continuity members, the partnership committee members serve for a term of five years and may serve multiple terms. Elections of partnership committee members are held once every five years. Partnership committee continuity members are not subject to election, and may serve until they cease to be partners, retire from the partnership committee or are unable to discharge duties as partnership committee members as a result of illness or permanent incapacity. A replacement partnership committee continuity partner is either designated by a retiring or, as the case may be, the remaining, partnership committee continuity member. 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 less the number of the serving partnership committee continuity members. 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 less the number of the serving partnership committee continuity members, 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 these 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 (“Articles”). Pursuant to our Articles, the Alibaba Partnership’s nomination rights and related provisions of our Articles 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 ten members, and five of these directors are Alibaba Partnership nominees. Pursuant to its right to nominate or appoint directors as discussed above, the Alibaba Partnership is entitled to nominate or appoint one additional director to our board, which would increase the total number of directors to eleven. We have entered into a voting agreement pursuant to which both SoftBank and Altaba have agreed 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.
The following table sets forth the names, in alphabetical order by surname, and other information regarding the current 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|
|Trudy Shan DAI
|F||1999||President, B2B Business|
|M||2007||President, Digital Media & Entertainment Group|
|M||2000||Senior Director, DingTalk|
|Felix Xi HU
|M||2007||Vice President, Ant Group|
|Simon Xiaoming HU
|M||2005||Director and Chief Executive Officer, Ant Group|
|Jane Fang JIANG
|F||1999||Deputy Chief People Officer|
|Eric Xiandong JING
|M||2007||Executive Chairman, Ant Group|
|Jack Yun MA
|M||1999||Founder and Director|
|M||2003||Chief Technology Officer, Ant Group|
|Lucy Lei PENG
|F||1999||Director, Ant Group|
|Sabrina Yijie PENG
|F||2000||Chief Marketing Officer, Ant Group|
|M||2002||General Manager of Social Responsibility|
|Judy Wenhong TONG
|Joseph C. TSAI
|M||1999||Executive Vice Chairman|
|M||2008||Chairman, Technology Steering Committee|
|M||2003||President, Local Services|
|M||2003||Chairman, Marketing and Public Relations Committee|
|Winnie Jia WEN
|F||2007||Vice President, 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||Senior Vice President|
|M||2004||President, New Retail Technology|
|Sara Siying YU
|Sam Songbai ZENG
|M||2012||Chief People Officer, Ant Group|
|Jeff Jianfeng ZHANG
|M||2004||President, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence|
|Daniel Yong ZHANG
|M||2007||Chairman and Chief Executive Officer|
|Angel Ying ZHAO
|F||2005||President of International Business, Ant Group|
|Jessie Junfang ZHENG
|F||2010||Chief Risk Officer and Chief Platform Governance Officer|
Our board of directors, acting on the recommendation of our compensation committee, approves an annual cash bonus pool for our management (which in fiscal year 2020 comprised over 425 individuals) equal to a percentage of our adjusted pre-tax operating profits. Once the annual cash bonus pool is calculated, our compensation committee will then first determine the proportion to be allocated to the non-partner members of our management. Any remaining portion will then be available for the partner members of our management. The partnership committee will determine the allocation of the relevant portion of the annual cash bonus pool for all partner members of management, with any amounts payable to partners who are our executive officers or directors or members of the partnership committee subject to approval of the compensation committee of our board of directors. We understand that a partner’s level of contribution to our business and to the promotion of our mission, vision and values will be a key factor in determining his or her allocation from the bonus pool. A portion of the annual cash bonus pool that is available to the partner members of management may, upon the recommendation of the partnership committee and approval of our compensation committee, be deferred, with the allocations of deferred payment determined by the partnership committee with any amounts payable to our executive officers or directors who are partners or members of the partnership committee subject to approval of the compensation committee of our board of directors. We understand that participation in deferred distributions, other than post-retirement payments funded out of the deferred pool, is conditioned on a partner’s continued employment with us, our affiliates and/or certain companies with which we have a significant relationship, such as Ant Group.
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. Jack Ma and Joe Tsai are designated as continuity partners, who may remain partners until they reach the age of seventy (and this age limit may be extended by a majority votes of all partners), elect to retire from the partnership, die or are incapacitated or are removed as 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 honorably retired partners by the partnership committee. Honorably retired 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 post-retirement 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 honorably retired 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 of these types of transactions. In addition, our Articles 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 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 a person becomes a partner, which ranges from January 2014 to January 2019 for our existing partners, we require that each partner retain at least 60% of the equity interests (including shares underlying vested and unvested awards) that he or she held on the starting date of the 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 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.
We have one class of Shares, and each holder of our Shares is entitled to one vote per Share. 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. These rights are categorized as a weighted voting rights structure, or WVR structure, under the Hong Kong Listing Rules. As a result, we are deemed as a company with a WVR structure