Alibaba’s Jack Ma has officially stepped down as the company’s executive chairman today at the age of 55. His departure will be celebrated at the 80,000-capacity Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium in China.
Ma’s exit coincides with this 55th birthday. The position will be filled in by Daniel Zhang.
In September 2018 interview, he cited that he wanted to follow the footsteps of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his philanthropic works.
“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 said.
Duncan Clark, the author of Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built said: “Jack has been signaling for some time his interests in philanthropy, environment, women’s empowerment, education, and development.”
In a letter sent out today, Ma reiterated his gradual departure plans from Alibaba.
“The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba,” said Ma.
As he steps down as executive chairman, Ma will continue serving Alibaba as a board member until its annual general shareholders meeting scheduled in 2020. Even with his departure, Ma retains a 6.22% share of the company.
Ma will remain a lifetime partner of the Alibaba Partnership. This is a group made up of 36 partners from the senior management ranks of Alibaba Group companies and affiliates.
The group is said to have a strong authority or power over the company as they have the right to nominate the board of directors. In certain situations, they can even appoint the members themselves.
In 2013, Ma stepped down as Alibaba’s CEO. He handed the position over to Jonathan Lu. In 2015, Lu was replaced by Daniel Zhang. The latter will now succeed the position Jack Ma vacated.
In a 2018 message announcing the appointment of Zhang, Jack Ma had this to say about the incoming executive chairman: “He has the logic and critical thinking skills of a supercomputer, a commitment to his vision, the courage to wholeheartedly dare to take on innovative business models and industries of the future.”
Zhang joined Alibaba in 2007. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in finance from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. He is said to be the brainchild of the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival. This is Alibaba Group’s annual signature event held every November 11. It is also known as the world’s largest online shopping phenomenon.
As Daniel Zhang steps into his new role in Alibaba, analysts say that one of his major challenges is how to find new areas of business growth as the e-commerce sector continues to mature.
The Alibaba Group’s journey to becoming Asia’s most valuable listed company, with a current market capitalization of $460 billion, started in 1999 in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.
Alibaba started as a tradition e-commerce company that evolved into a conglomerate that has businesses in various industries including logistics, food delivery, cloud computing, and many others.
Ma, who was a former English teacher, managed to convince his group of friends to lend him $60,000 to start Alibaba in 1999.
The company, which celebrates its 20th year in the business, started with an English-language wholesale marketplace, Alibaba.com. In the same year, the business expanded into launching a domestic wholesale marketplace. A year later, Alibaba managed to get a $20 million investment from a group of investors led by SoftBank.
By 2003, Alibaba founded online shopping platform in China, where third-party sellers can sell their products called TaoBao. The revenues from TaoBao plays an important role in the core commerce business of Alibaba.
A year later, in 2004, Alibaba launched a payment platform, Alipay. In 2007, it had its initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong. However, Alibaba made the company private by delisting from the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2012. In the years that it was publicly listed, Alibaba managed to launch TMall, cloud computing, and many other ventures.
In 2014, Alibaba went public at the New York Stock exchange. This IPO raised $25 billion and is currently the biggest in history.
Over the years, Alibaba has managed to expand into different industries including AI technology, entertainment services, Internet services, and many others. Its latest acquisition is the e-commerce platform, Koala. Alibaba acquired the platform from NetEase for $2 billion.