The 54-year-old, who was once an English teacher and is now worth more than $40 billion, began the e-commerce company Alibaba in 1999 and grew it from humble origins into a $420-billion business that has become key in how Chinese buy and sell goods.
He has told the New York Times that he will now focus on philanthropy in education. Ma established the Jack Ma Foundation in 2014, which fosters education for those in rural China, and has professed his love of education. He is referred to as “Teacher Ma” within Alibaba.
Ma is following a similar path as Bill Gates, who has dedicated himself to philanthropy after retirement, and has cited Microsoft’s co-founder as an inspiration in an interview with Bloomberg TV recently.
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Ma will remain on the company’s board of directors and continue to mentor Alibaba employees, according to the New York Times. He said that his departure is not the end but “the beginning of an era.”
Ma’s retirement makes him one of the first founders of a generation of Chinese internet entrepreneurs to step down.
Alibaba has been referred to as the Amazon of China. It was founded by 18 people, led by Ma, and now has more than 66,000 full-time employees, according to the company’s latest annual filing.
The business began as an online business-to-business marketplace and later extended to consumer sales in 2003. It has since expanded into digital media, cloud computing and entertainment, among other services.
While Ma has been serving as Alibaba’s executive chairman after handing the CEO title to David Zhang in 2013, the New York Times reports that Zhang is a candidate to take over his chairman duties.
— With files from Reuters
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