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Alibaba’s Jack Ma, China’s richest man, to retire at 54

08 September, 2018, 16:13 | Author: Arnold Gilbert
  • Screenshot via Bloomberg

Ma said the move will be "the beginning of an era" and revealed that he may now focus on education, which he "loves".

Ma was born in September 1964 to Chinese traditional musician-storytellers living in Hangzhou, an ancient capital that's become a global high-tech hub and bastion of entrepreneurship, in part because of Alibaba's base there.

Ma was an English teacher before starting Alibaba in 1999 and built it into a multibillion-dollar internet colossus, becoming one of the world's richest men and a revered figure in his homeland. The Chinese economy is also facing slowing growth and increasing debt, and the country is embroiled in an escalating trade war with the United States.

Mr. Ma will disclose his plans on Monday, when he turns 54, the person said.

Alibaba has one of the strongest management teams in corporate China and even if he steps down, Ma is likely still to have a role in setting top-level strategy, says Brock Silvers, MD of Kaiyuan Capital.

Known as Ma Yun in mainland China, he is scheduled to be in Russia next week to formalise Alibaba's venture with Mail.ru, the internet company owned by Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov and sovereign wealth fund Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).

Earlier this week, Mr Ma told Bloomberg TV that he wanted to create a personal foundation, following in the footsteps of Microsoft's Bill Gates. The New York Times is blocked in China by Communist Party censors and there was no official statement from Alibaba on Saturday.

For Alibaba, Ma's retirement completes a transition of power to other executives.

After being knocked back by U.S. venture capitalists in 1999, cash-strapped Chinese entrepreneur Ma persuaded friends to give him $60,000 to start an e-commerce firm called Alibaba.

Ma has been backing away from Alibaba over the past few years, stepping down as chief executive officer in 2013 but remaining very involved in the company's strategic planning, according to the Times. "This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba".

Shares dropped more than 2 percent following the report of Ma's impending retirement. Alibaba now also handles digital payments, online banking, cloud computing and digital media and entertainment. "I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier", Ma said during an interview last week with Bloomberg Television.

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