Tencent executive Jonathan Lai leaves to join US investment firm Coatue

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2018, 9:29am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 October, 2018, 2:48pm

Jonathan Lai, who led western investments and strategic partnerships for Tencent Holdings, has left the technology giant to join New York-based Coatue Management.

Lai, who graduated from Harvard University, worked for Tencent for more than three years from July 2015 to September 2018, serving as a director of investment and business development. Lai has joined global investment manager Coatue as an investor in digital entertainment including games, video, music and enabling technologies, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Lai’s team at Tencent was responsible for making investments in the US and Europe, backing dozens of companies including Epic Games, the publisher of the popular title Fortnite, and Discord, a messaging service for gamers, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news of Lai’s departure.

Tencent confirmed Lai’s exit on Wednesday without commenting further. Lai did not respond to a request for comment sent to his LinkedIn account. Coatue could not be reached immediately for comment.

Lai’s departure from Tencent comes at a challenging time for the Shenzhen-based company, with its shares languishing around the HK$325 level in recent days compared with a year high of HK$474.60, amid a clampdown on gaming and content by Beijing, regulatory uncertainty and a big sell-off in the technology sector on an escalating trade war between China and the US.

Tencent releases open platform to help drive AI projects at other companies

Tencent, which operates the world’s largest video games business by revenue, has had to make some conciliatory moves amid greater regulatory scrutiny of gaming content by Beijing, which is also seeking to better control the time spent by children on video games in order to protect their health.

Earlier this month, Tencent shut down its popular Texas Hold'Em poker video game. Last month, one of the world’s hottest video games – Monster Hunter: World – disappeared from Tencent’s WeGame platform less than a week after its official launch.

China’s approval of licences for new games has been suspended since the end of March. A government source told the South China Morning Post it may take a further four to six months to finalise the new licensing system.

The approvals halt has led to the industry’s slowest first-half growth in at least a decade and Tencent reported a 2 per cent drop in second-quarter profit on lower gaming revenue and investment-related gains – its first profit decline since 2005. Tencent’s mobile-game business reported a decline of 19 per cent to 17.6 billion yuan (US$2.6 billion) from the prior quarter, as it failed to get approval to charge fees for popular tactical tournament games and new releases were delayed.