Jack Ma Says He's Retiring from Alibaba

By That's, September 8, 2018

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UPDATE (September 10, 2018 at 5.39pm CST): Jack Ma has confirmed he will step down as Alibaba's chairman in 2019. For more details, click here.

Alibaba's billionaire co-founder and executive chairman Jack Ma is retiring from the company, the New York Times reports.

Ma told the NYTimes he would announce his retirement plans this week. After Ma retires in September of next year, he'll spend more of his time and fortune pursuing philanthropy and education. But he will remain on the e-commerce giant's board of directors and will continue mentoring upper management.

Ma, who was China's third richest man in 2017, told the NYTimes that this wasn't the end of an era, but rather "the beginning of an era." He plans on devoting more time to teaching, telling the US newspaper, "I love education." (Ma was once an English teacher prior to his time at Alibaba).

Meanwhile, Alibaba's PR department denied initial reports that Ma would be retiring on September 10 of this year, telling Chinese newspaper the Economic Observer that if Ma's plans were indeed true, the company would issue an official announcement. The Alibaba-owned South China Morning Post confirmed over the weekend that the New York Times' initial reports of an early retirement were 'factually wrong' and 'taken out of context,' and instead reported that Ma would be unveiling a succession strategy this week. 

Reports of his stepping down come just days after Ma told Bloomberg of his plans to create an education foundation in his own name, similar to Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

“There’s a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates," Ma said in his interview with Bloomberg. "I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier. I think some day, and soon, I’ll go back to teaching. This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba.”

“I’ve prepared a Jack Ma Foundation,” he added. “All these things that I’ve been preparing for 10 years.”

Alibaba Headquarters
Alibaba's headquarters in Hangzhou. Image via Wikimedia Commons

The 54-year-old entrepreneur co-founded the e-commerce giant in 1999 in Hangzhou, where the company is headquartered. Since then, the group has acquired businesses in various fields, such as eBay-style Taobao, and has also begun building a growing digital entertainment division, which includes a portfolio of ticket selling, online video and music streaming services. In November of 2016, Alibaba created a cultural and entertainment group, which integrated video platforms Youku and Tudou, web browser firm UCWeb, Alibaba Pictures, Alibaba Music, Alibaba Sports and Alibaba Digital Entertainment. Alibaba first filed for an IPO in the US market in 2014.

In October 2017, the company reached a market valuation of USD470 billion, briefly overtaking Amazon to become the world's largest e-commerce platform. 

In a video that emerged from Alibaba's early days, Ma delivered a speech outlining his ambitious plans for the company.

WATCH: Jack Ma's 1999 Speech to Alibaba Employees

"I've always said our competitors are not domestic websites, but overseas websites," the young Ma is heard saying in the video, filmed nearly 20 years ago. "Our competitors are not in China, but in America's Silicon Valley."

Jack Ma 1999
Image via Taluswood Films/Youtube

Thanks to the company's unprecedented success, Ma has become a household name and picked up a devoted fanbase of followers, both at home and overseas. In a meeting at Trump Tower last year, US President Donald Trump praised Ma's business acumen, saying he was a "great entrepreneur, one of the best in the world." 

Trump and Jack Ma
Image via Sohu

Aside from his stellar business skills, the quirky entrepreneur has become famous for his extravagant performances. The annual Tmall Singles Day Gala, a star-studded extravaganza kicking off Alibaba's wildly popular 11/11 shopping holiday, has featured world-famous celebs such as Nicole Kidman, Pharrell Williams, Scarlett Johansson and Kobe Bryant. Ma himself appeared with Jet Li in a 22-minute kung fu movie that was specially released for Singles Day last year.

Jack Ma
Image via Youku

Ma also famously dressed up and performed as Michael Jackson for Alibaba's Chinese New Year company gala in 2017.

Current chief executive Daniel Zhang will succeed Ma once he steps down as chairman next year. 

UPDATE: (September 10, 2018 at 5.01pm CST): This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that Jack Ma will continue to serve as Alibaba's chief executive until September 2019.

[Top image via Wikimedia Commons]

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