LeEco co-founder and global vice chairman resigns, citing health reasons

Ding Lei, also chief executive of the company’s electric vehicle division, will remain a strategic advisor for its ecosystem research centre

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 March, 2017, 9:06pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 March, 2017, 10:46pm

LeEco co-founder Ding Lei is stepping down from his post as global vice chairman, as well as China and Asia-Pacific chief executive for the company’s electric vehicle division, SEE Plan, he said on Monday.

On Chinese microblogging site Weibo, Ding issued a statement citing health reasons for his departure from the automobile unit’s leadership post, although he said he will remain a strategic advisor for the company’s ecosystem research centre.

Zhang Hailiang, SEE Plan (China)’s chief executive and chief operating officer, is replacing Ding, the company said later on Monday. The 46-year-old Zhang, the former vice president of state-owned SAIC Motor, joined the electric vehicle subsidiary last year.

LeEco in a statement thanked Ding for his contributions and said it hoped he would continue to work with the company to produce its automobile, should his health permit.

“I hope that the LeSee car will go into production soon and achieve success,” Ding wrote.

In December, Ding also reportedly left his position as global chief executive at Faraday Future, a US-based electric vehicle start-up backed by LeEco chief executive Jia Yueting, days before the company was due to exhibit its first production vehicle the FF 91.

Ding’s resignation from the SEE Plan unit comes amid a flurry of financial woes that have plagued parent company.

I hope that the LeSee car will go into production soon and achieve success
LeEco co-founder Ding Lei, who is stepping down as global vice chairman

In November, Jia wrote in an internal letter to employees that the company had expanded too rapidly and was facing an impending cash crunch. Jia partially blamed the company’s expensive ventures, singling out the automobile unit for burning up 10 billion yuan (US$1.45 billion).

Despite its financial woes, LeEco in December went ahead and broke ground on its 12 billion yuan car factory in Deqing county, Zhejiang province. The factory will have the capacity to assemble up to 400,000 electric vehicles by 2018, the company said.

In January, the cash-strapped company received a lifeline in the form of a 16.8 billion yuan investment from Chinese property developer Sunac China Holdings.

Sunac injected fresh funds into LeEco’s entertainment and hardware businesses, taking a stake in LeEco’s film production unit Le Vision Pictures, its video-streaming platform LeShi Internet Information & Technology, and its television hardware unit LeShi Zhixin Electronic Technology.

Sunac, however, did not invest in the SEE Plan division. Analysts commonly regard LeEco’s car divison as a black hole, due to the high costs associated with research and development as well as production of vehicles.