The founder of giant Chinese PV module maker Suntech has today stepped down as chief executive.

Zhengrong Shi will now act as executive chairman and also take up the position of chief strategy officer. He is replaced by David King, who joined Suntech last year as chief financial officer. 

In a statement, Shi said: “The solar industry is at a critical juncture and is facing both significant challenges and exciting opportunities. At this time, I believe it’s important to devote more of my time to guiding the strategic direction of the company, building relationships with key partners, and driving the ongoing development of Suntech’s leading solar technology.”

King will be succeeded by Anlin Ting-Mason, currently chief financial officer of Suntech America.

Shi became known as the ‘Sun King’ in China after creating the first Chinese solar company to have commercial success overseas.

The management change comes as Suntech – along with the rest of China’s solar manufacturers – are facing tough economic times.

Suntech’s problems were compounded last month when it revealed it may have been defrauded to the tune of $687, and this month its shares hit an all-time low.