(Yicai Global) April 4 -- Liu Jianhong, a renowned former CCTV football commentator, has resigned as chief content officer of Leshi Sports Culture Industry Development Beijing Co. as debts at its parent company, the infamous conglomerate LeEco, continue to spiral out of control.
Liu was taking an extended period of annual leave before rendering his notice, state-backed online news agency The Paper reported. Speculation that the executive would depart began circulating at the end of last year, when he criticized the firm in an interview.
“LeSports has inaccurate judgment of its capabilities and develops at a speed inconsistent with his resources,” he said at the time. His departure follows that of Lei Zhenjian, LeSports founder, who left in January as the company’s plans for reorganization fell apart. The sports division once had over 1,000 workers, but now has fewer than 200.
Liu’s next steps remain to be seen, the report added. He began working for LeSports in August 2014 and has departed shortly before the 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia. He spent the prior 18 years working for state-owned broadcaster CCTV’s sports channel, where he provided commentary for major football events, including the World Cup and the UEFA European Championship.
LeSports set up shop in March 2014, and rapidly expanded by acquiring the rights to 310 sporting events l, including top flight football from the UK and China, golf, motorsports and tennis. At one point it was the largest company in China’s sports sector, valued at around CNY21.5 billion (USD3.4 billion).
But its parent company, head of the LeEco brand Leshi Holding Beijing Co., found itself stuck in the mud at the end of 2016. With its parent’s debts mounting ever higher, LeSports was unable to pay royalties and lost broadcast rights to key sports events. The problem continued to escalate and the firm struggled to pay wages, having to lay off staff as senior executives resigned and shareholders went up in arms.