Alibaba Co-Founder Jack Ma Announces Retirement: 10 Things To Know

Screenshot via Bloomberg

China's richest man is going step down as executive chairman of the $420-billion Alibaba Group on Monday when he turns 54, he said in an interview with the NYT. He co-founded the Chinese internet retailer in 1999 and built it into an empire now worth $420 billion and making the former English teacher China's richest man worth about $40 billion. It was founded by 18 people, led by Ma, and now has more than 66,000 full-time employees, according to the company's latest annual filing.

Since handing off his CEO title to Daniel Zhang, Ma has spent 40 per cent of the year travelling the globe to preach about the virtues of globalisation and inter-connectedness, the potential of technology to improve lives, and about philanthropy.

While Ma's retirement from a formal role is a milestone, analysts and industry professionals say it is unlikely Ma's involvement will change significantly. But Ma on Thursday told Bloomberg TV that he was mulling an early retirement similar to Bill Gates' early exit from Microsoft.

As Beijing has increased its involvement in the private sector, Ma has shifted what he has said about China's government. He was an English teacher before moving into the business world with Alibaba's founding nearly 20 years ago. His net worth is estimated by Forbes to be around USA $ 36.6 billion.

"I've prepared a Jack Ma Foundation".

The entrepreneur said he had been preparing his philanthropy plans for 10 years. "I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier", he said.

Alibaba didn't immediately respond to a request for confirmation.

Ma was an English teacher before starting Alibaba in 1999.

With savvy deals and an investment from SoftBank, it has morphed into a behemoth that can make or break brands.

Notably, while Ma had stepped down as the Alibaba CEO nearly eight years back, he remained the face of the company at top political and business events and he played an important role in devising the company's long term strategy. The business has more than 870 million users via payment system Alipay and its affiliates. Adding that he loves education, Jack Ma said that after stepping down his focus will be on education.

Richard Liu, the billionaire founder of Alibaba's main competitor JD.com, was briefly arrested in the U.S. over a rape allegation last week.

Ma's retirement puts more distance between Alibaba and one of its most visible and charismatic spokesmen.

A focus on education wouldn't surprise keen followers of Ma, who has spoken frequently of its importance to him.

"I was not considered a good student but I improved, we keep on learning all the time". During his time as chairman, he helped guide growth at home and overseas while spearheading its 2014 initial public offering, the biggest ever.

He is one of the most colorful of China's growing crop of billionaires, performing a Michael Jackson-inspired dance routine at the company's 18th anniversary celebration previous year, and starring in his own kung fu short film. The first tech revolution caused WWI, the second caused WWII, now we are a third revolution, what's gonna happen? Despite leaving day-to-day operations, Ma will remain on the board and mentor Alibaba's management.

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