Alibaba's Jack Ma Is Not 'Retiring', Will Announce Succession Plan Soon

Virginia Carson
September 8, 2018

While Ma sees himself as an accidental executive who only entered the business world with Alibaba's founding nearly 20 years ago, he has become one of China's most recognized corporate leaders.

Ma stepped down as Alibaba's chief executive in 2013, but remained executive chairman.

The Times said that in an interview, Ma said he planned to step down as executive chairman on Monday to pursue philanthropy in education.

Jack Ma, who co-founded the world's largest e-commerce platform, will unveil a succession strategy next week, part of a management plan 10 years in the making for grooming a generation of younger executives to take over the reins of Asia's most valuable company.

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The 54-year-old, who was once an English teacher and is now worth more than $40 billion, began the e-commerce company Alibaba in 1999 and grew it from humble origins into a $420-billion business that has become key in how Chinese buy and sell goods.

Ma's retirement comes after a torrid couple of weeks for his rival tech CEOs in China.

One of the world's richest men and a revered figure in his homeland of China, Mr Ma said it was "the beginning of an era, not the end".

Although he was no longer in charge of the day-to-day running of the company, Ma continued to be Alibaba's guiding hand and its most recognized face. The Chinese economy is also facing slowing growth and increasing debt, and the country is embroiled in an escalating trade war with the United States.

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Ma's decision also comes as US police investigate an allegation of rape against Richard Liu, head of e-commerce rival JD.com Inc (JD.O), which has hammered its shares.

Ma's success was evident after Alibaba's Taobao bested eBay in China, forcing the US auction site to largely withdraw from the country in 2006. Liu, who goes by Richard Liu in the English-speaking world, was arrested on a rape allegation in Minneapolis during a business trip. Numerous co-founders are still around, and professionals who joined the company later are now in charge.

As he prepares to leave the company, Ma is among China's super-rich. Ant Financial has revenues of about $40 billion a year. But Ma on Thursday told Bloomberg TV that he was mulling an early retirement similar to Bill Gates' early exit from Microsoft.

In an interview earlier this week, Ma had signaled that he was thinking about focusing more on philanthropy.

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