Jack Ma to retire from Alibaba to focus on philanthropy

Henry Chu

Jack Ma, the co-founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba and China’s richest man, says he is retiring from the company in order to focus on philanthropy.

In a yet-to-be-published interview with The New York Times, Ma said he would step down Monday – his 54th birthday – as executive chairman of the company that he helped found in 1999 and that has become a digital behemoth in the world’s most populous country. The paper said Ma would remain on Alibaba’s board of directors and continue in a mentoring role.

His retirement would mark “the beginning of an era” for him, one in which he could concentrate on charitable activities in education, a field close to his heart, he said in the interview.

Alibaba has a market value of $420 billion and is active in sectors across the Chinese economy. One of those is entertainment, through its Alibaba Pictures arm, which owns a stake in Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, and through its hugely popular movie-ticket sales app, Tao Piao Piao. The company also has a 12-year partnership with the International Olympic Committee, to help the organizers of the Olympic Games with digital strategy and processes.

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Ma stepped down as CEO of Alibaba in 2013. That post now belongs to Daniel Zhang, a former head of Alibaba’s Taobao, the consumer-directed sales site that helped vault its parent company into the financial stratosphere from its humble beginnings as a B-to-B operation.

Although he was no longer in charge of the day-to-day running of the company, Ma continued to be Alibaba’s guiding hand and its most recognized face. He has become a familiar figure in both Hollywood and Silicon Valley, hobnobbing with the global elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos and other gatherings.

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