Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba, is to step down in September 2019 to focus on philanthropy.
He will leave the company entirely, stepping down from the board following the company's annual general meeting, in 2020.
Ma made the announcement on his 54th birthday, claiming that he has "lots of dreams to pursue" - dreams that, for some reason, also include working in education again. Ma will hand over the role of executive chairman at Alibaba to CEO Daniel Zhang.
Perhaps the most notable element of Alibaba Group for organisations outside China is the Alibaba Cloud, which is increasingly cited as a potential rival to Microsoft's Azure cloud and Amazon Web Services, especially with partnerships with companies such as BT currently being negotiated.
Ma revealed his succession plan in a letter to customers, staff and shareholders over the weekend, suggesting that the move would be the final step in a ten-year plan.
"Because of physical limits on one's ability and energy, no one can shoulder the responsibilities of chairman and CEO forever. We asked ourselves this question ten years ago - how could Alibaba achieve sustainable growth after Jack Ma leaves the company?" he wrote.
He continued: "We believed the only way to solve the problem of corporate leadership succession was to develop a system of governance based on a unique culture and mechanisms for developing consistent talent and successors."
He concluded: "Those who know me know that I do not like to sit idle. I plan on continuing my role as the founding partner in the Alibaba Partnership and contribute to the work of the partnership. 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? The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba."
Ma enjoys an estimated net worth of $36.6 billion with which he can pursue his philanthropic ambitions, while Alibaba employs more than 66,000 staff and has a market value of around $420 billion.
Ma learnt English at an early age, honing it by conducting tours around his city for overseas visitors. He earned a BA in English from Hangzhou Normal University in 1988 - then known as Hangzhou Teacher's Institute. After graduation, he became a lecturer in English and international trade at Hangzhous Dianzi University. Later, he studied at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, graduating in 2006.
Ma got his start in business after being introduced to the internet during a trip to the US in 1995. Finding no information about China, he launched a China-related website and started a business building websites for Chinese businesses, outsourcing much of the work to US acquaintances.
In 1999, Ma founded Alibaba, a business-to-business marketplace, with a group of 18 friends, taking $25 million in venture capital investment in two rounds in October 1999 and January 2000. In 2005, Ma rejected a takeover offer from eBay and took-in an investment of $1 billion from Yahoo instead. The company floated on the New York Stock Exchange in September 2014.
Before going to university, though, Ma struggled to even get a job: applying for 30 roles and getting 30 rejections, including KFC when it opened a branch in his city, he claimed in an interview, when 24 people applied for 23 jobs.
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