Alibaba's Jack Ma to step down as chairman in 2019, CEO Daniel Zhang to take over
10 September 2018
Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, will step down as chairman of the e-commerce giant on 10 September 2019, exactly a year after, leaving the job to Daniel Zhang, the current chief executive officer of Alibaba, the company said.
Ma, China’s richest man, will officially pass the baton on his 55th birthday, next year, but remain on the board until 2020.
Zhang, who has been CEO of Alibaba since 2015, will retain the CEO title as well, the company said
Ma, who turned 54 on Monday, relinquished the role of chief executive in 2013. He will also complete his current term on Alibaba's board of directors following the company's annual general meeting in 2020.
Zhang, 46, had earlier been serving as chief operating officer and is a key architect of Alibaba's “Singles Day”, the 11 November event that has become the world's largest online shopping event.
“Under his stewardship, Alibaba has seen consistent and sustainable growth for 13 consecutive quarters... Starting the process of passing the Alibaba torch to Daniel and his team is the right decision at the right time,” Ma said in a letter released by the company.
Ma, who co-founded Alibaba in 1999, is one of China's richest people with a net worth of $36.6 billion, according to Forbes. The company has grown to have more than 66,000 full-time employees and a market value of some $420 billion.
Ma said that after he steps down from his current roles he will continue to mentor management as part of the “Alibaba Partnership”, a 36-member group of core company managers. The group has the ability to nominate the majority of directors on the company's board.
A former English teacher with no technical background, Ma now intends to focus on philanthropy and education, and also pursue “new dreams,” he said in a statement Monday.
Seen as an icon of self-made wealth, Ma is also known for his eccentric personality and has performed highly choreographed pop routines at company events. Last year he starred alongside Chinese action star Jet Li in a short kung fu film.
Zhang, Shanghai-educated certified account, who took over as CEO of Alibaba in 2015, set in motion a plan to buy up and transform brick-and-mortar retailers into what is called “New Retail” vision.
Ma, on the other hand, concentrated on philanthropy and promoting Alibaba internationally at business and political events. Last year Ma invested 300 million yuan ($45 million) in a rural education project in China. He has also established a scholarship programme in Newcastle, Australia.
Ma, who also controls Alibaba payment affiliate Ant Financial, is stepping back as sales growth in China's eastern mega-cities shows signs of slowing. Alibaba reported robust revenue growth in the first half of 2018, but its profit margins have been squeezed in the e-commerce battle.
The billionaire started Alibaba.com in 1999 as a business-to-business marketplace with 17 co-founders. An investment from Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. helped the company expand the online business in China.
Through the Taobao and Tmall platforms, it reported billions of dollars in sales and last year saw daily package deliveries reach 55 million.
Alibaba has since moved into cloud computing, digital payments, health care, Hollywood movies and backing China’s startups. Its share price has more than doubled since its record 2014 initial public offering.
The e-commerce company has one of the strongest management teams in corporate China and, even if Ma steps down, he is likely to still have a role in setting top level strategy, said observers.
Ma is expected to unveil a succession strategy that will seek to groom a new crop of young executives to take over the reins of Asia’s most valuable company, The South China Morning Post has reported.