Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is known as the rags to riches entreprenuer. The executive chair of Alibaba Group, an e-commerce giant and the world’s fifth largest internet company by revenue has come a long way from the days he used to run his company from his apartment, just 19 years ago.
But when the clock strikes 20 years for Alibaba on September 10, 2019, its Board of Directors Chair will hand over the reins to another man. Daniel Zhang, the company’s chief executive will replace Ma as the executive chair of the global tech entreprise.
Jack Ma announced this on September 10, the day of his 54th birthday. International media entities report that Ma wrote a letter to customers, employees and shareholders stating the reasons why he was stepping down.
“No company can rely solely on its founders. Of all people, I should know that. Because of physical limits on one’s ability and energy, no one can shoulder the responsibilities of chairman and CEO forever,” Ma said.
Ma added that the transition shows 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.”
The Chinese billionaire, who used to be an English teacher before starting the multi billion dollar company, also said this is part of a decade long plan the company has been working on since asking itself the question, “How could Alibaba achieve sustainable growth after Jack Ma leaves the company?”
The succession plan will now see Ma prepare Zhang for a smooth transition for the next 12 months. Ma, who is a lifetime partner of the Alibaba Group, will remain on the company’s Board for at least another year after stepping down as executive chair – until the 2020 annual general meeting.
“Having been trained as a teacher, I feel extremely proud of what I have achieved. Teachers always want their students to exceed them, so the responsible thing to do for me and the company to do is to let younger, more talented people take over in leadership roles.”
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Daniel Zhang has been with Alibaba for 11 years and according to Ma, the CEO has demonstrated “superb talent, business acumen and determined leadership.”
Of the man named the top CEO by business news media in China, Ma said “His analytical mind is unparalleled.”
What next for Jack Ma?
Ma also said he will pursue lots of other dreams alongside whatever roles he will continue to have at Alibaba. “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.”
The Chinese billionaire also hinted that he may go back to the teaching profession. “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?!”
Ma is worth around Ksh4 trillion according to Forbes Magazine which ranks the world’s richest people. His worth places him at number 20 in the billionaire’s rich list.
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He founded Alibaba in 1999, and places its anniversary on September 10. The e-commerce company also handles technology, AI, retail and various other internet services.
Jack Ma said the company was never meant to revolve around him. “The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”
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