NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Alibaba, on Monday, pulled back the curtain on its unique partnership structure and one figure stands out among the 27 people named as the culture carriers of China's largest e-commerce company: one-third of Alibaba's partners are female.
That figure indicates Alibaba is doing better than Silicon Valley peers such as Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOG), Twitter (TWTR) and eBay (EBAY) when it comes to gender equality. The company's partnership is treated by founder Jack Ma as fundamental to the company's culture and its ability to continue to innovate in the ultra-competitive e-commerce marketplace.
Female partners of the firm include Trudy Shan Dai, chief customer officer, Fang Jiang, VP of corporate integrity and human resources, Lucy Lei Peng, chief people officer and CEO of small and micro financial services, Sabrina Yijie Peng, VP of international and small and micro financial services, Judy Wenhong Tong, COO of China smart logistics, Sophie Minzhi Wu, president of Alibaba.com and 1688.com, Maggie Wei Wu, CFO, Sara Siying Yu, associate general counsel in China, and, Yu Zhang, VP of corporate development.
Those partners indicate that Alibaba has a strong female presence within its executive ranks and is a stark contrast to China's male-dominated political and corporate culture. Alibaba's one-third female partnership may also underscore that the company's corporate governance policies are closer in-line with U.S. standards than many may have expected.
Partnership Drives U.S. Listing
Alibaba decided to list its shares in the U.S. because of a spat the company had with Hong Kong regulators, who would not allow the company to list its shares with a special partnership structure. Many U.S. financial pundits took that ruling and Alibaba's decision to list in New York as reason to believe the company would list its shares with a dual class stock structure, giving insiders different voting rights than ordinary shareholders.
While recently IPO'ed Chinese companies such as JD.com (JD), Weibo (WB) and Cheetah Mobile have listed in the U.S. with dual class voting standards, Alibaba isn't. Instead, the company's partnership seeks to nominate a majority of directors to its board of directors.
"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," Alibaba states in its F-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
On Monday, the company revealed it only nominated four partners to its nine-member board of directors.
Alibaba's Board of Directors
Alibaba said its board would consist of founder Jack Ma, executive vice chairman Joseph Tsai, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, Alibaba CEO Jonathan Zhaoxi Lu, COO Daniel Yonhg Zhang, Chee Hwa Tung, vice chairman of the Twelfth National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference of the PRC, former KPMG executive Walter Teh Ming Kwauk, Michael Evans, and Yahoo! (YHOO) founder Jerry Yang.
It is worth noting that none of Alibaba's board directors after its IPO are female.
Evans, a longtime banking executive who led Goldman's equity underwriting business, was often mentioned as a possible candidate to succeed Lloyd Blankfein as CEO of the famed investment bank until his surprising retirement at the end of 2013. As Vice Chairman of Goldman's Asia operations for nearly a decade, Evans had a history of leading the bank's investments in China's rising corporate giants such as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
Yang led Yahoo's early investment in Alibaba and SoftBank's Son has also been a long-time investor and partner as the company has grown to the undisputed leader in e-commerce in China. Yahoo, unlike Goldman Sachs, retained most of its stake in Alibaba and is poised to receive tens of billions of dollars as a result of the company's IPO.
Alibaba has hired six underwriters, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, to lead its U.S.-based IPO.
-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York