Alibaba pins US growth hopes on Gold­man’s China deal-maker

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By REUTERS

Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd is hop­ing a Cana­dian Olympic gold medal­ist once tipped to be the next chief ex­ec­u­tive of Gold­man Sachs Group Inc will help make it big in the United States.

Michael Evans, who turns 58 this month, re­tired from the US in­vest­ment bank in 2013, hav­ing forged a rep­u­ta­tion as one of the most pro­lific deal-mak­ers in Alibaba’s na­tive China dur­ing a sev­enyear stint in Hong be­tween 2004 and 2011.

Now he is tasked with lead­ing the e-com­merce gi­ant’s ex­pan­sion out­side its home­land, an as­sign­ment that will be par­tic­u­larly tough in theUS given reg­u­la­tors’ some­times hos­tile at­ti­tude to Chi­nese firms buy­ing US tech­nol­ogy as­sets.

“Evans was Mr China back when he was at Gold­man,” said Eu­gene Tan, head of Asian in­vest­ment bank­ing at Op­pen­heimer In­vest­mentsAsia Ltd.

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“For a West­erner he was re­garded as know­ing how the coun­try works and he’ll be a use­ful face for Alibaba to fight off neg­a­tive sen­ti­ments as they try and break into theUS mar­ket.”

Reuters was un­able to con­tact Evans out­side of nor­mal work­ing hours in the US, where he is based.

As well smooth­ing the way for ac­qui­si­tions, Evans will be ex­pected to seal part­ner­ship ar­range­ments for Alibaba with brands and re­tail­ers across the US as well as Europe and the rest of Asia.

Tan, who knew Evans when they both worked atGold­man, said the ap­point­ment is part of a wider strat­egy at Alibaba to hire bankers who can help the com­pany se­cure valu­able tech­nol­ogy out­side of China.

“They are hir­ing up al­most ev­ery tech banker I know. Jack Ma is a smart guy, he re­al­izes you don’t need to de­velop tech your­self all the time, you can just buy it.”

Evans is the sec­ond for­mer

in Gold­man Sachs banker to take a se­nior role at Alibaba, fol­low­ing Michael Yao who joined in 2012 as its head of cor­po­rate fi­nance. Yao was re­spon­si­ble for guid­ing Alibaba to its record $25 bil­lion US ini­tial public of­fer­ing in 2014.

Evans also worked on the list­ing, and has sat on Alibaba’s board as an in­de­pen­dent di­rec­tor ever since.

He won his Olympic gold in the men’s eights row­ing dur­ing the Los An­ge­les 1984 Sum­mer Olympics, com­pet­ing on the same team as his twin brother Mark who also worked at Gold­man Sachs.

The pair’s fa­ther John Evans was a suc­cess­ful car­di­ol­o­gist, busi­ness­man and phi­lan­thropist.

Michael Evans had been tipped to take over at the top of Gold­man from cur­rent chair­man and CEO Lloyd Blank­fein, sur­pris­ing many in the in­dus­try when he in­stead stepped down as its vice-chair­manand head of the emerg­ing mar­kets di­vi­sion.

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