China's richest man and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's co-founder Jack Ma announced his retirement with effect from Monday to pursue philanthropy in education. The Hangzhou-based company, which began as an e-commerce marketplace founded with US$60,000, has taken less than two decades to expand into a US$420 billion juggernaut in online shopping, cashless payments, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and even Hollywood movies. Ma stepped down as Alibaba's chief executive in 2013; the company's current chief executive is Daniel Zhang, who is a candidate to succeed Ma. Monday is his 54th birthday, and the Chinese holiday Teacher's Day, making the announcement particularly timely.
"This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba", he told Bloomberg TV recently.
Ma has thrived in the spotlight as he became a much sought-after guest for conferences around the world, even as tensions between China and the USA have risen over trade.
Ever the drama creators, other outlets were quick to say Ma is trying to one-up Gates. He founded the Jack Ma Foundation, a philanthropic organisation devoted to education, in 2014. He will remain on Alibaba's board of directors and serve as a mentor to the company's new management, he said.
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One of China's biggest tech titans is stepping down.
"I am very thankful for Australia and the time I spent there in my youth", Ma said during his visit.
Ma said he sees himself as an accidental executive.
As Alibaba has flourished, Ma has talked many times about how he did not want to spend his whole life at the company, saying he would retire one day and go back to teaching. His net worth was estimated at $36.6 billion by Forbes. "On a day-to-day basis, Alibaba shareholders probably have little to fear should the charismatic Ma pull back a bit further".
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One example of such a leader is Alibaba CEO and Co-Founder Jack Ma.
Notably, while Ma had stepped down as the Alibaba CEO nearly eight years back, he remained the face of the company at top political and business events and he played an important role in devising the company's long term strategy.
Ma said he could never be as rich as Gates - but that he could retire earlier than Gates.
"It's the system which I think I have contributed to along with my team and this will be able to make the company last long", Ma said.
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