The Executive Chairman of the giant e-commerce retailer will step down on 10 September 2019 and will focus on philanthropy.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on September 10, 2018

Ma will hand over his role to Daniel Zhang. Initial reports last week suggested Ma would leave the role immediately, but the company has now clarified there will be a year-long handover period. It said this timeframe will allow for a “smooth and successful transition”.

The 54-year-old Ma said in a statement his decision to hand over the company at an early stage was inspired by his earlier work as a teacher.

“Teachers always want their students to exceed them, so the responsible thing to do for me and the company is to let younger, more talented people over in leadership roles,” he said.

Jack Ma: “The world is big, and I am still young”

Ma said he was excited for the next chapter of his life.

“The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things,” he said.

“The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”

The company has been an incredible success story under Ma’s leadership and last year its daily deliveries reached 55 million parcels a day. Initially an e-commerce marketplace, it has since diversified into other areas including financial services, digital media, instant messaging services and cloud computing.

In 2014, it raised an incredible US$21.4 billion in its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, making it the biggest IPO in history.

The transition for Ma to step away from the company has been a long and orderly one. He resigned from his role as CEO in 2013 to concentrate on his philanthropic body, the Jack Ma Foundation. He continued to be seen as the face of the company.

Ma is also a permanent member of the Alibaba partnership and will retain some involvement with the company as a Founding Partner. He will continue to serve on the Board of Directors until the 2020 Annual Shareholders Meeting.

At time of writing, Ma is the wealthiest person in China and the 20th most wealthy person in the world, with a net worth of US$36.6 billion.

Ma’s announcement comes at something of a tricky time for Chinese firms as the nation’s economy begins to slow amid continuing uncertainty over trade.

Daniel Zhang has been groomed to take over from Jack Ma

Zhang has been at Alibaba since 2007 and has been CEO since 2015. Ma described him as a “superb talent” in the company.

In a letter to shareholders, Ma said Zhang said he was satisfied with his decision.

“Starting the process of passing the Alibaba torch to Daniel and his team is the right decision at the right time, because I know from working with them that they are ready, and I have complete confidence in our next generation of leaders,” he wrote.

Gil Luria, Director of Research at financial services firm D.A Davidson & Co told CNBC’s Squawk Box that Ma had already been winding down his responsibilities at Alibaba.

“He’s done, he’s already worked on the succession for years,” Luria said. It seems to be going in a fairly orderly fashion.”

“The communication to the outside world beyond the investment community may be a little different without Jack Ma. He’s a very colorful, charismatic figure, and that aspect of communication may go away.

“It’s (Zhang’s) company now and as chairman, he would most likely continue those strategies.”

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