After making his company one of the largest retailers in the world, Alibaba founder Jack Ma will step down on the 20th anniversary of his company next year. He wants to dedicate himself to improving education and has appointed his pupil Daniel Zhang as his successor.
Pupil takes over (again)
The former English teacher returns to his first calling and sees his farewell in the same context: " 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", Ma writes in a message to customers, employees and shareholders. He also states that "no company can continue to rely solely on its founders. Because of physical limits on one’s ability and energy, no one can shoulder the responsibilities of chairman and CEO forever.”
Ma passes the baton to current CEO Daniel Zhang (who succeeded Ma in that position in 2013) and applauded his successor's "superb talent, business acumen and determined leadership". Earlier reports talked about Ma leaving immediately, but that has been denied: the current chairman of the board remains active in the company until the end of 2019, to help make the transition as smooth as possible.
"What if new dreams can be realized?"
Ma founded Alibaba in 1999 and under his supervision the company grew to be one of the largest retailers worldwide, with a turnover of 35 billion euro in the fiscal year 2018 (which ended 31 March). In 2013 he already took a step back and stepped down as CEO, while he remained chairman of the board. Critics point out that Ma is leaving Alibaba during a period where the company is suffering from several problems, like the trade war with the United States and the increasing grip of the Chinese government on the economy as well as the internet.
With an estimated capital of 35 billion euro, Ma is probably the richest man in China. Now he wants to invest some of his wealth in 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 (Ma is 53, ed.), so I want to try new things - because what if new dreams can be realized?!"