Alibaba announced on Monday that Jack Ma will step down as chairman of the board of the $420 billion e-commerce company on Sept. 10, 2019. At that time, which is Alibaba’s 20th anniversary, Ma will be replaced by current CEO Daniel Zhang, an 11-year veteran of the company. Alibaba said Ma will continue as executive chairman over the next 12 months in order to create a smooth transition to Zhang. After that, Ma intends to stay on the Alibaba board of directors until the 2020 annual shareholders meeting.
In a letter to Alibaba's customers and shareholders, Ma said the transition "demonstrates that Alibaba has stepped up to the next level of corporate governance from a company that relies on individuals to one built on systems of organizational excellence and a culture of talent development." Ma said that since Zhang took over as CEO, "he has demonstrated his superb talent, business acumen and determined leadership," noting Alibaba's sustainable growth for 13 consecutive quarters." Ma said he will continue in his role as the founding partner and member of the Alibaba Partnership, a group comprised of 36 people who can nominate a majority of the directors to the board. Ma said he may focus on philanthropy in education (Ma was an English teacher in China before founding Alibaba in 1999), as well as encouraging leadership among entrepreneurs, young people and women.
Total Retail's Take: Ma has a lot to be proud of. He started Alibaba nearly two decades ago in his apartment, and built it into a $420 billion business. Alibaba's roots are as an online marketplace designed to connect Chinese businesses with one another, but has since expanded dramatically to become China's biggest tech company, helping merchants sell everything from luxury goods to fresh groceries. To handle the high volume of transactions, Ma founded Alipay, an online payments platform that allowed customers to pay for goods using a digital wallet. Alipay, now part of Alibaba-affiliate Ant Financial, is China's most popular digital payment service. With a net worth of around $40 billion, Ma is also one of the richest people in China, and maintains a high profile, speaking at conferences around the globe and networking with world leaders. But it's his background as a teacher that he attributes much of his success to. In his letter to customers and shareholders, Ma wrote: "Having been trained as a teacher, I feel extremely proud of what I've achieved. Teachers always want their students to exceed them, so the responsible thing for me to do 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.’"