Alibaba founder Jack Ma to step down as chairman in September 2019

11 September, 2018, 00:48 | Author: Mary Valdez
  • Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma gestures as he attends the 11th World Trade Organization's ministerial conference in Buenos Aires Argentina

Ma was an English teacher before starting Alibaba in his apartment in the eastern city of Hangzhou in 1999 - where its headquarters remain to this day - building it into an e-commerce colossus and becoming one of the world's richest men and most recognizable figures in China. Alibaba now also handles digital payments, online banking, cloud computing and digital media and entertainment.

Ma, who turned 54 on Monday, became one of China's most famous entrepreneurs and one of the world's richest. The Hurun Run report, which follows China's wealthy, estimates his net worth at $37 billion.

The company's $25 billion initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in September 2014 was the biggest to date by a Chinese company.

Zhang will be promoted to the executive chairman on September 10, 2019, while Ma remains a director on Alibaba's board and a permanent member of the Alibaba Partnership, according to a letter written by Ma to all staff including to the Post. That arrangement limits shareholder control, but Ma has defended it as a way to keep Alibaba focused on long-term development.

"The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba", he said.

Zhang, a former accountant, has worked at Alibaba Group for 11 years and is credited with establishing the e-commerce giant's Singles' Day event and for being one of the key driver's behind Alibaba's new retail strategy.

E-commerce sales in China rose 32.2% previous year to 7.2 trillion yuan, accounting for 20% of total retail spending.

"Daniel has been instrumental in bringing Alibaba to its current scale", said John Choi, the head of China internet research at investment bank Daiwa Capital Markets.

Stewardship of Asia's most valuable company is passing to a financial wizard who has led the company's effort to drag the traditional retail industry into the 21st century.

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Zhang arrived at Alibaba in 2007 as the finance chief of the company's Taobao Marketplace, which he helped develop into one of the group's top businesses.

Ma fought back by launching Taobao, an eBay-style consumer-to-consumer site.

The company, founded at a time when the industry was still dominated by state-owned firms and entrepreneurship was seen as a risky career path, has grown to have more than 66,000 full-time employees and a market value of some $420 billion.

Ma is moving on with Alibaba in a dominant position in China and pushing into overseas markets from Southeast Asia to Russian Federation. That service later became instrumental in helping fix Alibaba's image, and the US removed the company from its "Notorious Markets" list in 2012 (though it re-joined in 2016). Both were later removed but complaints from makers of luxury goods and other brand owners intensified.

He owns almost 9% of Alibaba, which is now worth $420bn. The two sides settled the dispute past year with an agreement to cooperate in combating trafficking in fakes.

The company has wowed investors year after year with sterling revenue growth with Zhang at the helm.

The decision comes after Ma was rumored at the weekend to be on the verge of walking away from the company to concentrate on his charitable work and teaching.

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