Jack Ma Leaves Alibaba after 20 Years
Jack Ma has stepped down as the chairman of the giant on e-commerce company, Alibaba on Tuesday, marking the end of an era for the firm. He co-founded Alibaba in 1999 and it has become one of the world’s biggest internet firms.
Mr Ma’s success and colourful style has made him one of China’s most recognisable businessmen. The current Alibaba’s chief executive, Daniel Zhang, has been named to replace him as executive chairman.
The company is now valued at $480bn (£389bn) and Mr Ma is China’s richest man, with a net worth of $38.6bn according to Forbes.
He is also the first founder among a generation of prominent Chinese internet entrepreneurs to step down from his company.
“I think it will be very hard to replace somebody like Jack Ma,” said Rebecca Fannin, author of a book on China’s technology titans. He is one of a kind. He is the Steve Jobs of China.”
Over the years, Alibaba has grown from an online marketplace into an e-commerce giant with interests ranging from financial services to artificial intelligence.
It was originally set up as a trading platform for businesses, before expanding into consumer e-commerce in 2003 and later launching digital payment platform Alipay.
Lacking a background in technology and with no particular strength in finance, Mr Clark said charisma and strategic vision have been Mr Ma’s biggest assets.
“His charm is a big part of his leadership, his ability to convince people whether it’s customers, employees or critically shareholders.”
The 55-year-old is expected to focus on philanthropy and education after he steps down.
Mr Clark said he has gradually brought technology and finance experts into Alibaba and more recently, Mr Ma has been “consciously edging himself out”.
Those moves are expected to ensure a more seamless transition for Alibaba to a future without its co-founder.
Quiet, unassuming and known to shy away from the spotlight, the new chairman, Mr Zhang is nothing like his predecessor.
Yet Mr Zhang’s greatest challenge may be living up to the image of Mr Ma himself, a man who enjoyed the respect and affection of his staff as well as the international community.