Jack Ma’s Retirement Is a Sign Alibaba’s Heyday May Have Passed

10 September, 2018, 16:59 | Author: Sally Reid
  • 2018 Alibaba Xin Philanthropy Conference

"Alibaba's co-founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma, said he planned to step down from the Chinese e-commerce giant on Monday", the lede in the Times read.

Mr. Ma (54), will hand over the keys of his company to 46-year-old Daniel 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-based South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba, reported.

Alibaba said Jack Ma will remain a member of the Alibaba Partnership, a group of 36 people that has the right to nominate a majority of the company's board of directors.

Born to a poor family in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, Mr Ma began his career as an English teacher before becoming a self-made dotcom billionaire.

"The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba", Ma concludes in his letter.

Ma defended the arrangement as necessary to ensure Alibaba focuses on long-term development instead of responding to pressure from financial markets.

Alibaba is part of a group of companies including games and social media giant Tencent Holding Ltd., search engine Baidu.com Inc. and e-commerce rival JD.com that have revolutionized shopping, entertainment and consumer services in China.

Ma, known in Chinese as Ma Yun, appears regularly on television. At an annual Alibaba employee festival in Hanzhou, he has sung pop songs in costumes that have included blond wigs and leather jackets.

We asked ourselves this question 10 years ago - how could Alibaba achieve sustainable growth after Jack Ma leaves the company?

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Zhang, who joined Alibaba in 2007, sees Alibaba as an integrated ecosystem that lures consumers with movies, live-streamed sports, fast food deliveries and news.

Alibaba raised $5 million from investors including Goldman Sachs and $20 million from Japan's Softbank in 1999.

Ma fought back by launching Taobao, an eBay-style consumer-to-consumer site.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Ma now has a net worth of around $40 billion. Both were later removed but complaints from makers of luxury goods and other brand owners intensified.

Under Zhang's tenure Alibaba has moved from PC-based transactions to mobile-based, which now account for almost 80 percent of total gross merchandise volume.

Alibaba also has investments in sports content, microchips and facial recognition technology and has been positioning itself as a serious player in cloud computing. That made him China's highest profile business leader, a rarity in a country where many come up through the ranks of state-owned enterprises, and is a supporter of the ruling Communist Party.

Alibaba, which reported almost $40 billion in revenue previous year, says it has an annual active customer base of 524 million. That service later became instrumental in helping fix Alibaba's image, and the USA removed the company from its "Notorious Markets" list in 2012 (though it re-joined in 2016).

Alibaba didn't immediately return request for comment.

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