Alibaba’s co-founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma has announced he will step down from the e-commerce company as executive chairman to pursue philanthropy.
Ma will be succeeded by Alibaba's chief executive officer Daniel Zhang as chairman of the board of Alibaba Group in September next year. Ma will continue as executive chairman of the company over the next 12 months to ensure a smooth transition of the chairmanship and will continue as a member of Alibaba Group’s board of directors until the annual general meeting in 2020.
A former English teacher, Ma stepped away from his role as Alibaba’s chief executive in 2013 and has since been executive chairman.
Ma will continue to be part of the business as a lifelong member of its 'partnership committee', which has 36 members who are also members of senior management of Alibaba Group or its affiliates. This partnership has the right to nominate a majority of the directors to the board of the company.
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.
Zhang has overseen 13 consecutive quarters of growth, since assuming the chief executive role, and was crowned the countries number one CEO by Chinese media in 2018. Alibaba reported revenues of US$39.9bn for the fiscal year ending March 2018.
In a letter addressed to Alibaba customers, people (Aliren) and shareholders, Ma said: "Today, as we mark the 19th anniversary of Alibaba, I am excited to share some news with you: with the approval of our board of directors, one year from today on September 10, 2019, which also falls on Alibaba’s 20th anniversary, Group CEO Daniel Zhang will succeed me as chairman of the board of Alibaba Group. While remaining as executive chairman in the next 12 months, I will work closely with Daniel to ensure a smooth and successful transition. Thereafter, I will stay on the Alibaba board of directors until our annual shareholders meeting in 2020."
Reflecting on his time and a succession plan he claims has been in the works for 10 years already, Ma said Alibaba has been working to create a culture and a mission around things that will live beyond his stewardship.
"Alibaba is amazing not because of our business or scale or accomplishments. The best thing about Alibaba is that we come together under a common mission and vision. Our partnership system, unique culture and talented team have laid a strong foundation for the legacy of our company. In fact, since I handed over the CEO’s responsibilities in 2013, the company has run smoothly for five years on the back of these institutional ingredients," he said.
He continued, "As for myself, I still have lots of dreams to pursue. Those who know me know that I do not like to sit idle. I plan on continuing my role as the founding partner in the Alibaba Partnership and contribute to the work of the partnership. 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?!"
Jack Ma, known for his oratorical skills, ended his letter with, "The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba."