Jack Ma, the co-founder and executive chairman of the Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba, has stated that he plans to step down from his current position and pursue philanthropy in education.
Mr. Ma started Alibaba in 1999, progressively building it into one of the world’s most influential and weighty eCommerce and digital payment companies, thereby transforming the payment and shopping for the Chinese. His net worth flourished to more than $40 billion, making the former English teacher the richest man in China.
Mr. Ma’s retirement on the face of exacerbation of China’s business environment has been interpreted by Duncan Clark, author of the book ‘Alibaba: The House Jack Ma Built’ as:
He’s a symbol of the health of China’s private sector and how high they can fly whether he likes it or not. His retirement will be interpreted as frustration or concern whether he likes it or not
Beijing and state-owned enterprises have been increasingly intervening in companies as China’s internet industry faces growth and greater significance under President Xi Jinping, prompting the government to tighten its leash. Alongside this, China’s economy confronts slackening growth, increasing debt, and an escalating trade war with the United States.
In an interview, Mr. Ma spoke of his retirement as “the beginning of an era” where he plans to focus more on education, citing that he loves education.
Mr. Ma is not disappearing totally from the scene; he will remain on Alibaba’s board of directors and continue to mentor the company’s management. According to securities filings he owns 6.4 percent stake of Alibaba but has considerably more sway over the company owing to its complicated legal structure. Mr. Ma’s retirement completes a transition of power to other executives, especially to Daniel Zhang, the current chief executive of Alibaba since 2013 and a candidate to succeed Mr. Ma.
As Jack Ma retires in his mid-50s, it makes him one of the first founders among a generation of prominent Chinese internet entrepreneurs to step down from their companies.
After last week’s arrest of Liu Qiangdong, the billionaire founder of the online retailer JD.com, on charges of an allegation of rape in Minneapolis during a business trip, the announcement of Mr. Ma’s retirement is likely to shake things up in the Chinese internet industry.
Alibaba reportedly met a 60 percent increase in quarterly sales last month even as profits fell, the company’s annual revenue totaling about 250 billion yuan, or $40 billion.
The company has increased its presence outside of China by investing in eCommerce and online finance companies in India and Southeast Asia, but it still has not met success in the United States.
Earlier, Mr. Ma did not agree with the government’s involvement in the private sector, but as Beijing presently increases its involvement in the private sector, Mr. Ma stated last November that, “There’s no country like China in the world. With political stability, social safety and 6 percent-plus economic growth, we have the best business environment.”
As Alibaba continues to thrive, Jack Ma wishes to put more effort into education and philanthropy, citing Bill Gates as an inspiration in an interview with Bloomberg TV last week.