NEW DELHI: Despite widespread reports that Alibaba founder Jack Ma was retiring following a report by the New York Times, the Alibaba group has denied it. On Sunday, Alibaba-owned South China Morning Post cited an Alibaba spokesperson as saying that while Ma will unveil a succession plan to groom younger talent on Monday, he “will remain executive chairman while the plan is carried out”.
New York Times on Saturday had reported that Ma would be stepping down to pursue philanthropic activities, but, however, is expected to remain on the company’s Board of Directors and continue to mentor its management, something which most founders and celebrated entrepreneurs do after giving up on engaging day-to-day working of their enterprises.
Ma, who at present is among China’s richest men with a net worth estimated at $38.6 billion, gave up the role of chief executive officer in 2013, but has remained the chairman and public face of the company. During his time as chairman, he has helped guide growth at home and overseas while also spearheading Alibaba’s 2014 initial public offering, the biggest ever.
Ma’s early journey
Born in 1964 in Hangzhou, Ma comes from a humble background. Before starting Alibaba, which is now valued at over $400 billion, Ma was an English teacher at university. Ma, in one of his interviews, said that when he discovered the Internet for the first time, he knew that it is something which is going to change the world. It was in 1995 that Ma started an online directory and four years later, founded Alibaba.com in his apartment with 17 others.
In the early years, there were very few investors ready to buy Ma’s idea. After being knocked back by US venture capitalists in 1999, Ma persuaded friends to give him $60,000 to start Alibaba. While it initially allowed businesses to sell products to each other online, years later it ventured into consumers segment and highly benefited from the growing consumption of Chinese population.
Ma also controls Ant Financial, the online financial platform that runs China’s largest mobile payment system and money-market fund, which raised $14 billion in its latest round of funding that took its valuation at $150 billion.