(p. B1) HONG KONG — Alibaba’s co-founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma, said he planned to step down from the Chinese e-commerce giant on Monday to pursue philanthropy in education, a changing of the guard for the $420 billion internet company.
A former English teacher, Mr. Ma started Alibaba in 1999 and built it into one of the world’s most consequential e-commerce and digital payments companies, transforming how Chinese people shop and pay for things. That fueled his net worth to more than $40 billion, making him China’s richest man. He is revered by many Chinese, some of whom have put his portrait in their homes to worship in the same way that they worship the God of Wealth.
Mr. Ma is retiring as China’s business environment has soured, with Beijing and state-owned enterprises increasingly playing more interventionist roles with companies. Under President Xi Jinping, China’s internet industry has grown and become more important, prompting the government to tighten its leash. The Chinese economy is also facing slowing growth and increasing debt, and the country is embroiled in an escalating trade war with the United States.
“He’s a symbol of the health of China’s private sector and how high they can fly whether he likes it or not,” Duncan Clark, author of the book “Alibaba: The House Jack Ma Built,” said of Mr. Ma. “His retirement will be interpreted as frustration or concern whether he likes it or not.”
In an interview, Mr. Ma said his retirement is not the end of an era but “the beginning of an era.” He said he would be spending more of his time and fortune focused on education. “I love education,” he said.
Mr. Ma will remain on Alibaba’s board of directors and continue to mentor the company’s management. Mr. Ma turns 54 on Monday, which is also a holiday in China known as Teacher’s Day.
The retirement makes Mr. Ma one of the first founders among a generation of prominent Chinese internet entrepreneurs to step down from their companies. Firms including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JD.com have flourished in recent years, growing to nearly rival American internet behemoths like Amazon and Google in their size, scope and ambition. For Chinese tycoons to step aside in their 50s is rare; they usually remain at the top of their organizations for many years.
For the full story, see:
Li Yuan. “Founder Sees A ‘Beginning’ As He Retires From Alibaba.” The New York Times (Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018): B1 & B3.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 7, 2018, and has the title “Alibaba’s Jack Ma, China’s Richest Man, to Retire From Company He Co-Founded.”)
The book by Duncan Clark, that is mentioned above, is:
Clark, Duncan. Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 2016.