Winston Cheng, the head of Asia technology, media and telecommunications at Bank of America Merrill Lynch has left the US bank to join China’s LeTV Holdings as a senior vice president and head of corporate finance and development.
Cheng confirmed he will head LeTV Holding’s corporate finance unit, in charge of financing, investment and mergers & acquisitions.
He joins the company this week and reports to chairman Jia Yueting.
LeTV Holdings has a stake in Shenzhen-listed Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corp, an entertainment and online video company with a market capitalization of more than $10 billion. It also has holdings in unlisted businesses including sports channel LeTV Sports, dubbed the ESPN of China, and is keen to enter both the smartphone and smart electric vehicle markets.
The move marks a major departure for Cheng, who has spent the bulk of his career in banking. "I have just finished 20 years in the banking industry and personally for me it’s probably the right time to take [on] a new challenge such as this,” Cheng told FinanceAsia. “LeTV offers a good balance between listed and private fast growth businesses in terms of risk and rewards,” he added.
LeTV has a strong base in China’s domestic market but is not as well known internationally.
Cheng joined Bank of America Merrill Lynch in 2013. Prior to that he was the head of technology for Asia ex Japan at Goldman Sachs. Between 2011 and 2012, Cheng headed the Wall Street bank's consumer retail group Asia ex-Japan while maintaining coverage of key TMT firms in the region.
Before joining Goldman, Cheng spent more than a decade at Citi, where he was a director in the Asia TMT group, after several years in the New York and Palo Alto offices.
In his new role, he will be based in Beijing but will commute between the US and Hong Kong as well.
Cheng joins a swelling rank of bankers who have left the industry to pursue opportunities in the rising tech sector, which has been expanding. Many technology companies have hired from the banking industry to help manage M&A activity in-house.
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba last week hired Michael Evans as the company's president, overseeing international expansion. Evans was a partner at Goldman Sachs for 20 years and he left the US investment bank in 2014 after serving as vice-chairman, as well as chairman of Asia.
Earlier this year, Nikhil Eapen, previously head of Asia Pacific TMT at Citi, left the bank to join Temasek-owned ST Telemedia as its chief strategy and investment officer.
In August last year, Chinese taxi hailing app Didi Dache hired Jean Liu, previously a managing director of Goldman Sachs’ Principle Investment Area in Asia to be its chief operating officer in August 2014. (She is now president of Didi Kuaidi, the company formed through the merger of Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache).
Cheng’s predecessor Robert Chiu also left Bank of America Merrill Lynch for a tech firm, joining Shanda Interactive Entertainment as president.
A Bank of America Merrill Lynch spokesman confirmed that Cheng has left the bank and said he would be replaced.