Jack Ma, the co-founder and executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, announced that he plans to step down next year.
He broke this news in a letter – released on his 54th birthday – to Alibaba customers and shareholders. The news was followed by conflicting reports over the weekend on the timing of his exit.
His position will be taken over by the current chief executive of the company, Daniel Zhang. According to the official statement released by the company, Zhang will become executive chairman on 10th September 2019.
The one year handover period is kept to achieve a “smooth and successful transition.
Alibaba is one of the world’s most valuable companies – its shares nearly doubled in value last year.
Mr. Ma co-founded Alibaba in 1999 with 17 other people and made it one of the world’s biggest internet companies. Today, more than 500 million Chinese customers use Alibaba to purchase everything from clothes to cement to everyday use items.
The success of Alibaba made Mr. Ma China’s richest man with a net worth of more than $40 billion.
Previously an English language teacher, he came into E-commerce to try his fortune.
“I also want to return to education, which excites me with so much blessing because this is what I love to do. The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things – because what if new dreams can be realized?” Mr. Ma wrote in the letter.
Mr. Ma will remain a director on Alibaba’s board until its annual shareholder meeting in 2020. He is also a permanent member of the Alibaba Partnership.
He said in the letter that he wanted to return to education. He writes that he is still young and he wants to try new things.
“The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”
Talking about Mr. Zhang, he said that he had shown superb talent since taking over as chief executive.