Ma is scheduled to leave his post as Alibaba executive chairman next year. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Foundations World Economic Forum
Jack Ma – China’s richest man and the co-founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba – is retiring from the company to focus on philanthropy.
The business magnate has confirmed that he will step down as executive chairman 12 months from Monday. He is set to hand over leadership roles to Alibaba’s current chief executive, Daniel Zhang.
According to Alibaba, the major shift was intended to reduce the company’s dependence on a single individual while fostering long-term growth. The multi-national conglomerate said Ma will remain on its board of directors until 2020 despite his retirement as chair.
He would also stay as a member of the Alibaba Partnership, which is composed of long-time senior managers who have significant control over the business and its affiliated companies.
“Teachers always want their students to exceed them, so the responsible thing to do for me and the company to do is to let younger, more talented people take over in leadership roles so that they inherit our mission “to make it easy to do business anywhere,” Ma stated in a company press release.
He further stated that he, himself, still has “lots of dreams to pursue.” The renowned businessman said people close to him “know that I do not like to sit idle.”
Alibaba’s Legacy in the Business Industry
Alibaba is known for being an active force in sectors across the Chinese economy and has definitely transformed many. The internet company has an entertainment arm, Alibaba Pictures, which owns a stake in Amblin Entertainment owned by Steven Spielberg.
It also has a hugely popular app for movie tickets called Tao Piao Piao. In addition, the company has a 12-year partnership with the International Olympic Committee. Its goal is to help organizers of the Olympic Games with digital strategy and other processes.
In 2014, Alibaba officially went public on the New York Stock Exchange. It has a market value of around $421 billion. This year, the company ranks as the biggest e-commerce company in the world by total value of merchandise sold across all of its platforms. Alibaba also has the ninth highest global brand value.
Alibaba positioned itself as a strong e-commerce player in 2015. At the time, its online sales and profits bested all major U.S. retailers, including eBay, Amazon and Walmart combined.
The company is not only known for its products and services. In 2017, Alibaba showed its influence over consumers by orchestrating China Singles Day. Celebrated annually, the November 11 event is a popular holiday among Chinese youth who celebrate their pride in being single.
The event was considered the world’s largest online and offline shopping day. Within 24 hours, Alibaba’s sales for that celebration reached over $25.4 billion.
Jack Ma and His Road to Success
Ma, 54, was born in September 1964 in Hangzhou, China. It’s there that he attended Hangzhou Normal University, where he graduated with a BA in English in 1988. He was an English teacher before creating the Alibaba group with 18 other co-founders.
Ma established Alibaba 19 years ago in his apartment and has led it ever since. He has seen it evolve from being a small internet company to one of the world’s biggest multi-national conglomerates.
Alibaba made Ma one of the wealthiest and most influential men in China. As of 2017, he has a net worth of more than $40 billion.
The famous businessman stepped down as Alibaba CEO in 2013. While Zhang has already taken over the reins, Ma continued to be Alibaba’s most recognized face. He also served as the company’s guiding hand years after he vacated his CEO post.
Over the years, he has become a familiar figure in Silicon Valley and Hollywood. He recently rubbed elbows with the global elite at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.
Jack Ma at the Annual Meeting 2018 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 24, 2018. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Foundations World Economic Forum
Philanthropy Plans: What’s Next for the Alibaba Exec?
Ma wants to return to education for his latest philanthropy project. The former English teacher said in an interview that he wanted to establish his own foundation. His goal is to follow the footsteps of his fellow billionaire philanthropist, Bill Gates.
“There’s a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates,” he told Bloomberg TV.
He explained, “I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier. I think someday, and soon, I’ll go back to teaching. This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba.”
In another conference, Ma shared his thoughts on the idea of giving. He told his audience at the time that everyone can help in their own little way, if they just put their heart into it. The business magnate also discussed why philanthropy is not only for the rich and powerful.
“Everyone has the right and the ability to give. It doesn’t matter how big or small your contribution is, and it doesn’t mean you have to do something big or be someone important to do philanthropy,” Ma stated during the recent Alibaba conference on philanthropy held in Hangzhou.
The Alibaba group executive added, “Personal philanthropy is not about giving cash, but giving your heart, your time and most importantly, your action. Ultimately, personal philanthropy makes you a better person, and if everyone participates, we will have a better world.”
Organizations Helped by Jack Ma
Ma started thinking about his succession plan 10 years ago. He previously decided to put more time for philanthropy via the Jack Ma Foundation. In 2016, the organization pledged to donate $30 million to an initiative to support teaching in rural China.
Ma also handed out a $3 million donation to Queen Rania’s education efforts in the Middle East and North Africa. Last year, he set up a $26 million scholarship at the University of Newcastle.
While most of his donations go to education efforts, he is known for helping out the health sector as well. Ma and his business partners have donated 560 million yuan ($82 million) to a hospital in East China in 2017.
One of his latest grants was for the new program called the Netpreneur Prize. To help Africa’s digital economy, the Jack Ma Foundation will award $10 million to 100 African entrepreneurs over the next decade. The program will focus on a new breed of entrepreneurs, including small businesses, female founders and grassroots innovation.