Nasdaq-traded shares in Huazhu Group, one of the largest China-based hotel chains, fell by more than 3% this morning after company said its billionaire CEO and founder Ji Qi was stepping down from the post “for personal reasons” effective Oct. 1. (See statement here.)
Ji, 54, was worth $3.5 billion on the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires List earlier today.
Hui Jin, currently president, will succeed Ji as CEO; Ji will stay on as chairman. Huazhu operates more than 7,000 hotels in 17 countries, and has a market capitalization of approximately $30 billion.
Ji’s exit comes as China’s transportation industry, consumer sentiment and economic growth are being hurt by Covid-19 outbreaks in the country. Passenger travel last month plunged by 51% from a year earlier, according to a government report (see post here).
Ji’s exit as CEO also comes against a background of high-profile departures and leadership changes at top tech Chinese companies including Pinduoduo and ByteDance amid a “common prosperity” campaign that is seen as aimed at boosting government control over large private sector companies, education and other areas.
Ji is also a founder of Trip.com, China’s largest online travel site.
China is home to the world’s second-largest number of billionaires after the United States.
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