Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma to retire, focus on philanthropy

Posted September 08, 2018

Jack Ma, the iconic Chinese entrepreneur, is making plans for a future after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the company he co-founded and turned into Asia's most valuable company.

Ma was quoted as telling the paper he would step down on September 10 to pursue philanthropy in education.

Ma will remain on the company's board of directors and continue to mentor Alibaba employees, according to the New York Times.

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Ma, who turns 54 on Monday, told New York Times that the decision to retire would be "the beginning of an era" instead of an end. However, in contrast to the American magnate, he wants to "retire earlier".

Alibaba started as an online marketplace for businesses to sell their products to other businesses.

Ma's success was evident after Alibaba's Taobao bested eBay in China, forcing the United States auction site to largely withdraw from the country in 2006. The company owns or holds stakes in some of China's most important media assets, including the Twitter-like social media site Weibo and the Hong Kong-based English-language newspaper The South China Morning Post.

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He is one of the most colourful of China's growing crop of billionaires, performing a Michael Jackson-inspired dance routine at the company's 18th anniversary celebration a year ago, and starring in his own kung fu short film.

Even after stepping down as chief executive officer in 2013, the former English teacher remains the public face of a company with a market value of more than US$400 billion and interests spanning e-commerce and Hollywood film production to cloud computing and online payments. Alibaba later rolled out Alipay, an online payment service, to facilitate transactions in a country where few people had credit cards.

Ma has inspired strong devotion among his employees and users, drawing comparisons with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs - although he practiced a more open management style. Within Alibaba, he is known and referred to as "Teacher Ma".

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"I think some day, and soon, I'll go back to teaching", he said, adding he had been preparing philanthropy plans at his eponymous foundation "for 10 years".