Jack Ma, co-founder and executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, plans to retire from the company Monday to focus on philanthropy in education.
Since its creation in 1999, Ma grew Alibaba into the world’s largest online retailer with other ventures that include self-driving cars and digital payment methods. The New York Times reported Ma’s retirement plans.
Ma, who became China’s richest man after Alibaba’s record-setting 2014 IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, is retiring at a time when China’s private sector has faced more intervention from government in recent years. Chinese President Xi Jinping has also clamped down on the Internet industry to silence dissenting voices. China has also faced economic issues as a trade war escalates with the United States.
Duncan Clark, a business consultant in China and author of Alibaba: The House that Jack Built, said in a Wall Street Journal report that Ma’s move could be a signal of a changing business environment in China, as the government continues to exert more control and tighter regulation, including the adoption last year of a new law on cybersecurity.
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However, Ma, who will retire on Monday, his 54th birthday and a holiday in China known as Teacher’s Day, told the Times his retirement is not the end of an era, but “the beginning of an era.”
Ma, a former English teacher, added that he wanted to focus on his passion for education.
“I love education,” he said.
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Though he is retiring as chairman, Ma will remain on the company’s board of directors.
Ma stepped down as chief executive officer five years ago, but remained the public face of the company, which currently has a market value of more than $400 billion. Daniel Zhang replaced him as CEO.
He trusts the current management to lead the company forward as it expands beyond e-commerce to include movie production, Bloomberg reported. Ma plans to now focus on his first love of teaching and create a foundation for philanthropy following in the footsteps of fellow tech billionaire Bill Gates.
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“I have full confidence in my team and in the partner structure, which lots of investors don’t like,” Ma told Bloomberg. “I think some day, and soon, I’ll go back to teaching. This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba.”