Alibaba’s Jack Ma to Step Down as Executive Chairman

Screenshot via Bloomberg

Ma plans to remain on the board of directors of the Chinese e-commerce giant, which he co-founded in 1999 and which turned him into the richest man in China as of Friday.

Alibaba did not respond to requests for comment, but said in a social media posting on Saturday that Ma had met visiting African leaders and business partners in recent days.

Alibaba Group is a Chinese multinational holding conglomerate specialising in e-commerce, retail, Internet, AI and technology.

With a market value of more than $US400 billion, it includes online selling, film production and cloud computing.

Alibaba set up an an Australian headquarters in Melbourne in 2017, headed by Maggie Zhou, to make it easier for local business to sell into China.

The Jack Ma Foundation, which was founded in 2014, is chiefly dedicated to improving China's education system, particularly in rural areas.

He started Alibaba from his flat in Hangzhou with a group of friends.

Its customers use its e-commerce platforms to order products that a year ago led to package reaching 55-million a day.

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Ma, who is China's third-richest person with a net worth of $36.6 billion, according to Forbes magazine, was quoted by the NYT as saying that his retirement is not the end of an era, but "the beginning of an era".

In February previous year, Ma returned to Australia to give the University of Newcastle $US20 million as a tribute to his late Australian friend.

"There's a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates", he said. "Personal philanthropy is not about giving cash, but giving your heart, your time and most importantly, your action".

He has inspired strong devotion among his employees and users, drawing comparisons with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs - although he practices a more open management style.

Earlier this year regulators shot down a $1.2-billion bid for money transfer service Moneygram International Inc by Ant Financial on national security grounds, which the company said was related to "geopolitical" changes.

Known as Ma Yun in mainland China, he is scheduled to be in Russia next week to formalise Alibaba's venture with Mail.ru, the internet company owned by Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov and sovereign wealth fund Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).

Ma stepped down as Alibaba's CEO in 2013 but retained a role as executive chairman and a stake in the company.

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