In an interview with the New York Times Jack Ma revealed his plan to step down as executive chairman of Alibaba on Monday. The retirement makes Ma one of the first founders among a generation of prominent Chinese internet entrepreneurs to step down from their companies.
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“He’s a symbol of the health of China’s private sector and how high they can fly whether he likes it or not,” Duncan Clark, author of the book “Alibaba: The House Jack Ma Built,” said of Mr. Ma. “His retirement will be interpreted as frustration or concern whether he likes it or not.”
It’s very unusual for a Chinese executive to retire so young. But Ma was mulling an early retirement similar to Bill Gates’ early exit from Microsoft. When asked if his retirement could happen as soon as this year, Ma smiled and said, “You’ll know very soon.”
Current CEO Daniel Zhang is a “candidate” to replace Ma, who plans to pursue philanthropy in education. Monday is his 54th birthday, and the Chinese holiday Teacher’s Day, making the announcement particularly timely.
Jack Ma and Alibaba.com Journey
Alibaba’s Jack Ma, whose career took him from teaching English to becoming China’s richest man, has often joked he was not a natural technology executive.
In 1980, when China was in the initial stage of opening up to the world, Ma met Ken Morley, whose family was on a tour with the Australia-China Friendship Society in Ma’s hometown of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
Ma started Alibaba in 1999 and built it into one of the world’s most consequential e-commerce and digital payments companies, transforming how Chinese people shop and pay for things.
Jack Ma co-founded the Chinese internet retailer in 1999 and built it into an empire currently worth $420 billion and making the former English teacher China’s richest man worth about $40 billion.
Jack Ma was Alibaba’s chief executive until 2013, when he stepped down to become chairman. He founded the Jack Ma Foundation, a philanthropic organization devoted to education, in 2014. But he’s remained very involved in the company he founded.
When Alibaba debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in September 2014, Ma was on the podium to ring the opening bell.
Ma will remain on Alibaba’s board of directors and continue to mentor the company’s management. Ma turns 54 on Monday, which is also a holiday in China known as Teacher’s Day.