The chief executive behind Baidu’s artificial intelligence unit going down

BEIJING (Reuters) – Lu Qi, who oversaw Baidu Inc ( BIDU.O ) switch to artificial intelligence (AI) after a damaging advertising scandal in 2016, retires from the position of director of China operations The largest search engine said on Friday.

PHOTO OF THE FILE: A woman is silhouetted against the Baidu logo at the launch of a new Baidu product, in Shanghai, China, on November 26, 2015. REUTERS / Aly Song / File Photo

Lu, a former Microsoft and AI executive The expert who joined Baidu at the end of 2016 is currently responsible for the day-to-day operations of his AI unit, which became the company's main focus last year.

He will remain vice president of Baidu and vice president Wang Haifeng will now oversee the company's artificial intelligence projects, Baidu said in a social media publication, adding that Lu was stepping back for "personal and family reasons" .

Baidu shares fell in New York in the news, ending with a 9.5 percent loss on Friday.

Lu is considered one of the leading figures in the global AI industry, and joined Baidu at a time when the company was rebuilding investor confidence after a medical scandal linked to its search business generated new strict regulations that destroyed the advertising revenues of the firm.

Baidu, which saw revenue growth for several quarters after the new rules, has regained momentum after closing or selling loss generating units and channeling resources to its IA and autonomous driving units.

The AI ​​projects supervised by Lu, which include improvements to the company's news feed, have begun to generate dividends for the company, whose shares have risen more than 19 percent since the beginning of the year.

"In the future, while I'm with and taking care of my family, I will continue to strongly support Baidu and (executive director) Robin Li. I will also pay attention to China-US research and investment," Lu said in a statement. .

Lu is the latest in a series of high-level artificial intelligence experts who left the company last year amid fierce global competition for talent in this field.

At the beginning of 2017, the then chief scientist of Baidu, Andrew Ng, left the company to look for other projects. Not long after, the head of Baidu's autonomous driving unit, Wang Jing, stepped aside to launch a separate company in the same field.

Last month, Baidu exceeded badysts' revenue expectations when it reported its quarterly results. It was helped in part by lower-than-expected research and development costs, which skyrocketed in previous quarters largely due to personnel costs badociated with the construction of its AI unit.

Report of Cate Cadell; Mark Potter and Muralikumar Anantharaman edition


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