Jack Ma steps down as Alibaba chairman

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Jack Ma is stepping down as chairman of Alibaba Group on his 55th birthday.
Jack Ma is stepping down as chairman of Alibaba Group on his 55th birthday.

Chinese business magnate Jack Ma is officially stepping down as Alibaba’s executive chairman.

According to a CNN report, Ma is celebrating his retirement with a big bash at an Olympic-sized stadium in the company’s hometown of Hangzhou.

After two decades building Alibaba into a $460 billion business, the report says Ma is now pivoting full time to philanthropy.

He started the Jack Ma Foundation in 2014, and has cited the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as an inspiration for his charitable endeavours.

“Jack has been signalling for some time his interests in philanthropy, environment, women’s empowerment, education and development,” CNN quotes Duncan Clark, the author of “Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built”, as saying.

BBC reports that Ma, a former English teacher, co-founded Alibaba in 1999 and it has become one of the world’s biggest Internet firms.

It notes Ma’s success and colourful style made him one of China’s most recognisable businessmen.

According to BBC, Daniel Zhang, Alibaba’s chief executive, will replace him as executive chairman.

Meanwhile, Techcruch reports Ma will continue serving on Alibaba’s board until its annual general shareholders’ meeting next year.

He also remains a lifetime partner of Alibaba Partnership, a group drawn from the senior management ranks of Alibaba Group companies and affiliates that has the right to nominate (and in some situations, appoint) up to a simple majority of its board, it adds.

Ma said in last year’s announcement that he plans for his departure from Alibaba Group to be very gradual: “The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”

He is the first founder among a generation of prominent Chinese Internet entrepreneurs to step down from his company.

Ma was born on 10 September 1964 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China. He began studying English at a young age by conversing with English-speakers at Hangzhou international hotel. He would ride 70 miles on his bicycle to give tourists tours of the area to practise his English. He became pen pals with one of those foreigners, who nicknamed him “Jack” because he found it hard to pronounce his Chinese name.

Later in his youth, Ma struggled to attend college. The Chinese entrance exams are held only once a year and Ma took four years to pass. Ma attended Hangzhou Teacher's Institute (currently known as Hangzhou Normal University) and graduated in 1988 with a BA in English.

On 4 April 1999, Ma and his team of 17 friends and students founded Alibaba.com, a China-based B2B marketplace site, in his Hangzhou apartment.

In October 1999, Alibaba received a $25 million investment from Goldman Sachs and SoftBank. Alibaba.com was expected to improve the domestic e-commerce market and perfect an e-commerce platform for Chinese enterprises, especially small and medium enterprises, to help export Chinese products to the global market as well as address World Trade Organisation challenges.

In 2002, Alibaba.com became profitable three years after launch. Ma wanted to improve the global e-commerce system, so from 2003 onward, Alibaba launched Taobao Marketplace, Alipay, Alimama.com, and Lynx.

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