Alibaba co-founder and chairman as well as China's richest man Jack Ma has denied reports of his retirement and has instead unveiled a gradual succession plan
In a letter to staff members, investors, and customers, Jack Ma said that the reason he plans to gradually phase himself out of the company through a 12-month succession plan was to give way to younger generations to take over the $420 billion internet company, as reported by South China Morning Post.
The succession strategy is part of a management plan that was 10 years in the making and was announced on Jack Ma's 54th birthday, coinciding with Teacher's Day in Hong Kong and mainland China which holds a special meaning for Jack Ma, as he was a teacher before he ventured into business.
Previous reports of him "stepping down" and "retiring" were taken out of context and are factually wrong
An Alibaba spokesman told South China Morning Post that Jack Ma will remain as executive chairman while the succession plan is carried out.
"I’m very proud that Alibaba now has the structure, corporate culture, governance, and system for grooming talent that allows me to step away without causing disruption," Jack Ma said in the interview.
Alibaba chief executive officer Daniel Zhang has been appointed as Jack Ma's successor
Under the succession plan, Zhang will be promoted to executive chairman a year from now on 10 September 2019, while Ma will remain as part of Alibaba's board of directors and a permanent member of the Alibaba Partnership, as reported by South China Morning Post.
Zhang is referred to as xiaoyaozi, or the "free and unfettered one" by his employees. He is best known for starting the "Double 11" shopping festival in 2009, also commonly known as "Singles' Day". It is now the world largest 24-hour shopping festival and it brought about US$25 billion in sales last year.
Meanwhile, Jack Ma will be dedicating more of his time and wealth to philanthropy through the Jack Ma Foundation
Following in the footsteps of Bill Gates, Jack Ma wants to focus more on the Jack Ma Foundation that helps improve education in rural China.
"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?!" he said in the letter.
The self-made billionaire has openly spoken about his unhappiness with his busy entrepreneurial life before
He famously mentioned that he was the happiest when he was making just 91 yuan (US $13.26) per month as a poor English teacher and that he wanted to go back to that simple life.
"The thing is, I don't want to die in my office. I want to die on the beach," he said in an interview with American talk show host Charlie Rose in June 2017. As Alibaba joins the ranks of Apple, Microsoft and Amazon as one of the world's most valuable companies, he also famously said his "biggest mistake" was making Alibaba because of the pressure and responsibility he has had to take up to run the multi-billion dollar company with over 86,000 employees.
"If I still can have a next life, I will never do a business like this. I will be my own self; I want to enjoy my life," he said at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2016.
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