SCMP poaches former Expedia, AOL executive for new CEO

Expedia's Asian head Catherine So will become The South China Morning Post's new chief executive officer. PHOTO: CATHERINE SO/LINKEDIN

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - The South China Morning Post (SCMP) has picked Expedia's Asian head Catherine So to become its new chief executive officer, putting a technology and media veteran at the helm of the news outlet owned by Alibaba Group Holding.

Ms So replaces Mr Gary Liu, who will leave in July to oversee crypto-spinoff Artifacts Lab, SCMP said in a statement.

The Harvard-educated Ms So, who's also worked at Groupon, Star TV and AOL Time Warner, will focus on growing the newspaper's global readership and expanding its commercial opportunities.

She is the second woman to lead the storied organisation after Ms Kuok Hui Kwong, daughter of former owner Robert Kuok, who held the role between 2008 and 2012.

Ms So's appointment means the top two leadership positions at the paper are both filled by women, with Ms Tammy Tam as editor-in-chief.

Ms So, a Hong Kong native, joins the paper at an uncertain time.

In 2021, China's top economic planner unveiled a proposal that aims to bar private capital from news operations. The restrictions - which would apply only to domestic investments - came months after concerns were expressed in Beijing about Alibaba's controversial handling of a scandal involving one of its executives.

Bauhinia Culture (Hong Kong) Holdings was interested in adding the city's most prominent English-language newspaper to its stable of media properties, Bloomberg News has reported.

Alibaba representatives have denied the company is for sale.

Founded in 1903, SCMP was once one of the most profitable newspapers in the world, boosted by a large classified job-advertisement section.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch acquired control of the paper in 1986 before selling his stake to Mr Kuok in 1993.

The paper changed hands again in 2015 when Alibaba agreed to buy it for about HK$2 billion (S$354 million). The organisation has come under fire in recent years for allegedly avoiding sensitive issues in coverage involving Beijing.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.