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Jack Ma to step down at Alibaba next year after days of confusion

The tech tycoon will ‘ensure a smooth transition’ before handing over his role to CEO Daniel Zhang

September 10, 2018 1:12 PM (UTC+8)
Jack Ma has decided to step down as executive chairman of Alibaba as of next year to concentrate on his charitable work and teaching. Photo: AFP

In a series of confusing statements, it seems Jack Ma will step down as the head of Alibaba. The co-founder of China’s e-commerce juggernaut plans to leave the company next year.

The decision comes after Ma was rumored at the weekend to be on the verge of walking away from the company to concentrate on his charitable work and teaching.

But on Sunday, a spokesman for Alibaba denied he was ready to retire in the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Ma.

Finally, the group added clarity to a confusing picture when it issued a statement, saying he would relinquish his role as executive chairman when he turns 55 on Sept. 10, 2019.

During the next 12 months, he will work closely with CEO Daniel Zhang, who is being groomed to take over.

“While remaining as executive chairman in the next 12 months, I will work with Daniel to ensure a smooth and successful transition,” Ma said in the statement released on Monday.

“The world is big and I am still young, so I want to try new things,” he added, pointing out that he plans to continue in his role as founding partner. “The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”

On Friday, The New York Times reported in an interview with Ma that the former teacher turned tycoon planned to use his birthday this year to announce his retirement to focus on philanthropy.

Transition plans

The newspaper quoted Alibaba’s charismatic head as saying the decision was “the beginning of an era.”

But an Alibaba spokesman told the SCMP that The New York Times’ story “was taken out of context, and [was] factually wrong.”

“An Alibaba spokesman said Ma remains the company’s executive chairman and will provide transition plans over a significant period of time,” the SCMP wrote.

The SCMP added that the succession strategy was part of a plan “for grooming a generation of younger executives to take over the reins” of the company.

Ma has always considered himself an accidental executive. Before helping to launch Alibaba more than 20 years ago, he was an English teacher.

Now, he is worth more than US$40 billion, with the online group valued at over $400 billion.

Still, in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday, he revealed that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, one of the world’s most prolific philanthropists.

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

“There’s a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates. I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier,” Ma added.

Now, that will happen next year.

– additional reporting AFP

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