Alibaba's Jack Ma to step down in Sept 2019

Gladys Abbott
September 10, 2018

As per the latest development, CEO Daniel Zhang will succeed Jack Ma as Chairman of the board, starting September 10, 2019, on the 55th birthday of Jack.

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.

A devotee of Chinese martial art form Tai Chi, Ma started Alibaba in 1999 from his modest apartment in Hangzhou, the capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, with 17 other people (remember that Jeff Bezos started Amazon from a garage in Seattle).

Ma, who turned 54 on Monday, has long flagged plans to step back, insisting that Alibaba management should be relatively young and his retirement is not expected to affect the running of the company.

According to Ma, a "sustainable Alibaba" would have to be built on "sound governance, culture-centric philosophy, and consistency in developing talent", adding that no company can rely exclusively on its founders.

He relinquished the role of chief executive in 2013. "There's a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates". Zhang, 46, has been in the job since 2015 after serving as the company's chief operating officer.

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

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Ma has remained the public face of Alibaba, showing off his wit and dispensing folksy wisdom on the global stage.

He is also known for his eccentric personality and has donned wigs and costumes to perform highly choreographed pop routines at company events.

Ma said he will continue to be a member of the Alibaba Partnership and focus his new free time on philanthropy.

Last year, he made his acting debut with his first kung fu short film Gong Shou Dao, in which he sparred with martial arts master Jet Li.

In 2014, he and co-founder Joe Tsai set up a charitable trust focusing on the environment and health, funded by share options they own that represented about 2 percent of Alibaba's equity at the time. Three years later, the foundation for education pledged to donate $30m to a 10-year initiative to support teaching in rural China.

Alibaba is one of a group of companies including Tencent Holding Ltd., a games and social media giant, search engine Baidu.com Inc. and e-commerce rival JD.com that have revolutionized shopping, entertainment and consumer services in China. "Those who know me know that I do not like to sit idle", he said.

Alibaba also has investments in sports content, microchips and facial recognition technology and has been positioning itself as a serious player in cloud computing.

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