In the world of computers and the internet, some companies are easily associated with the names of their founders. Apple had the late Steve Jobs for one, Microsoft has Bill Gates. When the net became predominant in the computing landscape, then came Jerry Yang and Dave Filo of once-mighty Yahoo!, followed Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jack Dorsey of Twitter, the list goes on. The trend also seems to try to take hold in China, with Jack Ma being indelibly linked to his tech conglomerate the Alibaba Group. But nothing lasts forever. Much like his friend Jerry Yang leaving Yahoo! in 2012, so is Jack Ma departing Alibaba in the future.
TIME has it that Jack Ma announced this Monday, September 10, of his intention to step down as executive chairman of Alibaba Group, the tech company he co-founded in 1999 that is said to be one of the pioneers in establishing China as a major global market for e-commerce. According to his statement, Ma shall serve in his position for one more year, and effective September of 2019, he will retire from Alibaba. He will then be succeeded as chairman by CEO Daniel Zhang, who was appointed by Ma to that office back in 2013 to prepare for his departure.
In fact Ma has been preparing for Alibaba to go on without him for a remarkably long time. In a recent interview with the South China Morning Post last week Jack Ma broached that fact that some ten years ago he already asked his senior staff what direction they would take Alibaba without him. But it is not as if he was going away completely; Ma will remain part of the Alibaba Partnership and will have power to vote on the company’s board of directors.
Jack Ma’s primary background was in education, as a teacher of the English language. But after being introduced to the internet in 1995 he began his definitive career, first by forming a company to make websites for Chinese businesses. That company became the basis of Alibaba, starting from a business-to-business online marketplace and evolving into an e-commerce juggernaut not just in China but the world. By age 54 as of Monday, Jack Ma has become one of the wealthiest and most influential men in China and a global ambassador for the Communist country’s capitalist business sector. With his retirement set in one year’s time, Ma is considering a return to education and doing charity work.
Image courtesy of BBC