Is Jack Ma retiring?

Daniel Fowler
September 10, 2018

"Jack Ma's halo is too bright, and outshines whoever's under him, so he needs to fade out". He said the reason he's leaving is to pursue philanthropic endeavors focused on education.

The company's operations span ecommerce, artificial intelligence, electronic payment services, search engines and cloud computing. Ma's 46-year-old successor has pushed Alibaba deeper into the wallets of Chinese consumers as it bought and transformed brick-and-mortar outlets: a so-called " New Retail" vision that's cost billions of dollars and took it into the realm of physical stores.

"The teacher in me feels proud of our team, our leadership and our unique mission-driven culture, as well as the fact that we continue to develop exceptional business leaders and professional talent like Zhang", he said addressing the Aliren - the people of Alibaba.

Mr Ma is staying on as executive chairman for 12 months to "ensure a smooth transition" before handing over his role to chief executive officer Daniel Zhang, Alibaba said in a statement.

Zhang joined Taobao in 2007 as chief financial officer of the consumer-to-consumer marketplace.

Daniel Zhang is credited with turning Singles Day into the world's biggest shopping extravaganza.

Alibaba now has more than 66,000 full-time employees and a market value of about $420bn.

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Ma is stepping aside as China's central government has shown signs it wants to rein in the incredibly wealthy companies that have blossomed along with the country's booming economy. Leadership will now fall to Zhang and the 35 other partners who control the company.

With no background in computing, Mr Ma co-founded Alibaba in his apartment almost two decades ago, having convinced a group of friends to invest in his online marketplace.

Crucially, Zhang oversaw the growth of retail platform Tmall, which has grown to be one of the company's most significant revenue drivers, squaring off against major Chinese e-commerce rival JD.com Inc. Last year, it topped $25 billion. No company can rely exclusively on its founders. "He has understood Chinese consumer needs better than anyone and provided online services to meet them through convenience, entertainment and efficiencies".

He said he wanted to dedicate more time to philanthropy through the Jack Ma Foundation. It was then backed by $60,000 from 18 co-founders. "All these things that I've been preparing for 10 years", he said, who is now China's richest man.

I never thought that this thing would change my life. "The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things - because what if new dreams can be realised?!", Ma added.

"He put a human face on technology, and took China onto the global stage, not as a state-owned enterprise, crucially", said Duncan Clark, managing director at Beijing tech advisory BDA and author of "Alibaba: The House that Jack Built". In a reflection of the importance of Alibaba's success to communist leaders, the agency said its report was written in mid-2014 but the release was delayed to avoid disrupting the IPO. "Jack Ma is a guy with many ideas".

Ma also became one of the best-known Chinese businesspeople overseas.

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