Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

Alibaba's Jack Ma 'to step down and focus on philanthropy'

Screenshot via Bloomberg Screenshot via Bloomberg
Camille Neal | 08 September, 2018, 16:09

An Alibaba spokesman said Ma remains the company's executive chairman and will provide transition plans over a significant period of time, contrary to a New York Times article that said he was "stepping down" to "retire". This will be a big change of guard for the $420 billion dollar Chinese internet company. The Chinese e-commerce giant, since then is being managed by its current CEO Daniel Zhang, who is likely to succeed Ma after his retirement. Monday is his 54th birthday, and the Chinese holiday Teacher's Day, making the announcement particularly timely.

"I don't think it means that much, frankly".

As he prepares to leave the company, Ma is among China's super-rich.

In an interview, Ma said his retirement is not the end of an era but "the beginning of an era". He founded the Jack Ma Foundation, a philanthropic organisation devoted to education, in 2014. Ma will remain on Alibaba's board of directors and continue to mentor the company's management.

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He is one of the most colourful of China's growing crop of billionaires, performing a Michael Jackson-inspired dance routine at the company's 18th anniversary celebration previous year, and starring in his own kung fu short film.

Ma said he sees himself as an accidental executive. But Ma on Thursday told Bloomberg TV that he was mulling an early retirement similar to Bill Gates' early exit from Microsoft. His net worth was estimated at $36.6 billion by Forbes.

Ma was born in September 1964 to Chinese traditional musician-storytellers living in Hangzhou, an ancient capital that's become a global high-tech hub and bastion of entrepreneurship, in part because of Alibaba's base there. He would take the company to astronomical heights and make it China's major e-commerce website in the years to come.

Ma recognized an opportunity in 1999 to play matchmaker for small and medium-size Chinese manufacturers, which lacked access to other businesses around the globe that were looking for products as varied as bamboo toothpicks, bath towels and machine tools. "I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier", he said. Ma also controls Ant Financial, the online financial platform that runs China's largest mobile payment system and money-market fund. Ma stepped down as Alibaba's chief executive in 2013, but remained executive chairman.

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