Chinese billionaire Richard Liu released after US arrest

Richard Liu, the billionaire founder and CEO of one of China's largest e-commerce sites, has returned to Chi...

Posted: Sep 3, 2018 3:46 PM
Updated: Sep 3, 2018 3:47 PM

Richard Liu, the billionaire founder and CEO of one of China's largest e-commerce sites, has returned to China after being arrested in Minneapolis late Friday on suspicion of sexual misconduct.

JD.com said in a statement Sunday on Chinese social media that Liu was falsely accused while on a business trip in the United States. The company said police did not find evidence of wrongdoing, and that Liu is back in China and has "resumed his normal work."

Liu was released without bail around 4 p.m. Saturday, according to Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder. He said that it was an "active investigation" but that no formal complaint had been filed. He declined to provide further details.

Liu was a registered student at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management China Doctor of Business Administration program, according to the university. Participants of the program were in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area from August 26 to September 1 as part of their residency. The university declined to comment further.

The program is for "top-level executives" working full-time in China. The current participants have worked for about 20 years and have an average age of 50, according to the university's website.

JD.com is China's second-largest online shopping site after Alibaba.

Liu founded the company about two decades ago. JD has been listed on the Nasdaq since 2014 and has grown to around $45 billion valuation. The site sells everything from appliances and apparel to groceries and has a sprawling logistics network for quick delivery.

Major investors include Walmart, which owns a 10% stake, and Chinese tech giant Tencent, which holds 18%, according JD's latest annual report.

The business has made a fortune for Liu, who started his first e-commerce website in 2004. Bloomberg estimates his net worth to be about $7.3 billion.

He owns nearly 16% of the company's shares and controls just under 80% of its voting rights, giving him huge sway over key decisions.

Google recently made a $550 million investment in the Beijing-based company. The two tech firms plan to join forces to sell goods online across Southeast Asia, the United States and Europe in order to better compete with rivals like Amazon and Alibaba.

JD has ambitious plans to take on Western markets. Liu told The Financial Times earlier this year that JD plans to challenge Amazon in Europe as early as 2019.

The Chinese company has a research center in Silicon Valley that focuses on machine learning and AI, according to its website.

— CNN's Jethro Mullen, Serenitie Wang, Sherisse Pham and Kaya Yurieff contributed to this report.

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