SHANGHAI — After the exit of Sophia Liao earlier this month first reported by WWD, Condé Nast China has brought in a new boss. The media conglomerate has announced Li Li as its new China head with her appointment to take effect Oct. 12, after China’s golden week holiday.
The circumstances surrounding Liao’s departure, meanwhile, have turned contentious. Liao oversaw China for the company for two years but was shown the door abruptly on Sept. 9. Liao told Chinese-language media outlet Ladymax on Tuesday that she was never given an explanation for her sudden firing and that her employment contract included a clause that required a six-month formal notice period of termination from either side. Liao added that she had consulted lawyers and believes that Condé Nast China had violated Chinese labor laws by firing her in such a manner.
Liao said in a statement that “my firm belief on the company’s culture and values was what helped me to get through the past three and a half years, regardless of honor or disgrace, and it served as my sole motive to bring in change and innovation. Now, without any reason, even going so far as to violate Chinese law, the company’s insistence on forcing me to leave has completely made my perception of this company collapsed.”
“I repeatedly reminded the company that this action was a clear violation of Chinese labor law, and provided a professional legal opinion issued by a Chinese labor law lawyer. The company still insisted on going ahead with it, and at the same time kept proposing to terminate my employment contract. I questioned several times what I had done wrong and why the company wanted to terminate my contract, but I did not receive any concrete response,” she added.
In a document seen by WWD, DeHeng Law Office in Beijing advised Liao that “the employer shall not arbitrarily terminate the employment contract. Article 39, 40, 41 and 44 of the Labor Contract Law clearly stipulate the conditions and reasons for the employers to unilaterally terminate the employment contract,” and “even if the company’s rules and regulations stipulate that the company has the right to place employees on garden leave without reason, it is also against the law.”
“The Chinese team does not get the recognition and respect it deserves, even though the Chinese company has become one of the best performing subsidiaries of Condé Nast worldwide,” Liao added.
Condé Nast told WWD that “We do not agree with Sophia Liao’s claims. As is clear from our compliance policies, we conduct our business in China in accordance with the law at all times. Our recent confidential conversations with Sophia are no exception to this.”
Incoming executive Li joins from Bose, where she served as head of Greater China, consumer electronics. Prior to that, Li was general manager of the VIPLUX business for VIP.com, one of China’s high-end e-commerce platforms. Her other roles have included managing director of Fosun Group and senior management positions at Audemars Piguet and across L’Oréal’s luxury division.
She will report directly to Roger Lynch, ceo of Condé Nast.
“Li has spent her career building and growing global luxury brands by strategically using digital platforms and developing e-commerce capabilities,” Lynch said. “Her deep understanding of what consumers want and expect from today’s brands will be a tremendous advantage for our advertising partners looking to connect with our audiences in new and innovative ways.”
“In the world of media, the brands of Condé Nast stand for the best and have a tremendous opportunity for consumers and advertisers,” Li said. “I’m looking forward to working with the talented editors, marketers and business teams who have established and grown these globally recognized brands in China.”
Li studied architecture at Tsinghua University, and obtained a master’s degree in fashion and luxury management at Institut Français de la Mode, Paris. She also earned a master’s degree in business administration from Zhejiang University.