On September 10, Chinese billionaire Ma announced that he would step down as Alibaba's executive chairman in one year to make way for the next generation of leaders at the USD 420 billion e-commerce giant.
Jack Ma, the pioneer of China’s internet industry, has termed the speculation swirling around his retirement as a “sea gossip”, saying that he would rather die on the beach than in his executive office at Alibaba.
On September 10, Chinese billionaire Ma, on his 54th birthday, announced that he would step down as Alibaba’s executive chairman in one year to make way for the next generation of leaders at the USD 420 billion e-commerce giant.
He named the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Daniel Zhang as his successor who would take charge in September next year, while he would continue to be company’s Director.
His retirement report sparked off speculation that he may be stepping down due to prevailing business environment in China.
The New York Times in its report said Ma is retiring as China’s business environment has soured, with Beijing and state-owned enterprises increasingly playing more interventionist roles with companies.
Speaking about his retirement at the concluding session of the Summer Davos Forum in China’s Tianjin city on Thursday, Ma said “gossip has been around us every day for the past 19 years. For someone who has a dream for the future, gossips, rumours, hardships and frustrations will always be part of your life.”
Reporting on Ma’s speech at the forum China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported that sceptics said he was forced to step down, while others claimed he had already shifted a large number of assets to other countries, planning to leave China.
No matter what people say, Ma says he does not care about the rumours. “To friends, you don’t need to explain. To non-friends, the more you explain, the worse the situation becomes,” he said.
“At the age of 54, I am a bit old in the internet industry, but quite young for many other sectors,” he said.
“In the next 15 to 16 years, there’s still a lot of things I can do. I know it would be difficult for people at the age of 55 or 56, say 60, to leave. By then you would no longer be sure about your future, and you would hang on,” he said.
The retirement decision announced was anything but a retreat. It is actually “a step forward” for himself and the company, he said.
Ma, who grew from an English teacher to China’s top billionaires making Alibaba into USD 420 billion company, always took care to not ruffle feathers of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).
Ma started Alibaba.com in 1999 as a business-to-business marketplace with 17 co-founders in his Hangzhou apartment turning the company into a global e-commerce giant with burgeoning cloud computing and package delivery businesses.
Alibaba’s sprawling businesses also include brick-and-mortar stores, online video, movies and other enterprises, and it has sought to expand in promising new markets like India and Southeast Asia.
Ma gave up the CEO role in 2013 and in recent years has found time to work on other projects, including philanthropy.
Ma, with a personal fortune of USD 39.9 billion figured 19th in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index topped by American technology entrepreneur and investor, Jeff Bezoz, who had a net worth of USD 161 billion.