Beijing : Jack Ma, the pioneer of China’s internet industry, announced on his 54th birthday on Monday that he would step down as Alibaba’s executive chairman in one year to make way for the next generation of leaders at the $420 billion e-commerce giant.
While naming his trusted aide and CEO Daniel Zhang as his successor, Ma, one of China’s richest men with a net worth of $36.6 billion, in a letter to customers, employees and shareholders said that, “No company can rely solely on its founders.”
Ma will remain Alibaba’s executive chairman during the year-long period to ensure a “smooth and successful” transition, and stay on as an Alibaba director until a shareholder’ meeting in 2020, the company said.
He will hand over the keys of his company to 46-year-old Zhang in an unprecedented succession plan that will slowly take the focus off one of China’s most recognisable corporate names over the next 12 months, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, also owned by Alibaba, reported. Zhang developed the company’s popular Singles’ Day promotion, which is the world’s biggest one-day online retail event.
He will be promoted to the executive chairman on September 10, 2019, while Ma will remain a director on Alibaba’s board and a permanent member of the Alibaba Partnership, according to a letter written by Ma to all staff including to the Post.
“This transition demonstrates that Alibaba has stepped into the next level of corporate governance from a company that relies on individuals, to one built on systems of organisational excellence and a culture of consistent talent development,” Ma said in his letter. The succession plan being announced on his birthday on Monday came after confusing reports about Ma’s retirement.
The New York Times, which interviewed him, reported on Saturday that Ma planned to use his 54h birthday to announce his retirement to devote his time to philanthropy focused on education.