Alibaba CEO: Yahoo knew of plan to divest pay unit

By the Associated Press | June 1, 2011 | 9:59 PM EDT

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. (AP) — The head of the Chinese Internet company that has become tangled in a boardroom battle with major stakeholder Yahoo Inc. said his decision to split off a key online payment service into a separate entity controlled only by Chinese citizens should not have come as a surprise.

Jack Ma, the chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group, said at the D: All Things Digital conference that the option — deemed necessary to ensure it was licensed by Chinese regulators — had been discussed for three years and the board was well aware of the possibility. Yahoo owns 43 percent of Alibaba Group.

Ma said he had to take responsibility and leadership for the decision because otherwise the payment system, called Alipay, would have been destroyed and Alibaba along with it.