Jack Ma formally retired from Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant he founded that helped transform the way hundreds of millions of people shop and made him one of the world’s richest men.
But despite the elaborate celebrations the company held on Tuesday to commemorate his departure, Mr. Ma isn’t going far.
On paper, Daniel Zhang, Alibaba’s chief executive, will succeed the 55-year-old Mr. Ma as executive chairman. Mr. Ma has said he will devote his time to philanthropy, especially rural education.
Ma will continue serving on Alibaba’s board until its annual general shareholders’ meeting next year. He also remains a lifetime partner of Alibaba Partnership, a group drawn from the senior management ranks of Alibaba Group companies and affiliates that has the right to nominate (and in some situations, appoint) up to simple majority of its board.
Ma said in last year’s announcement that he plans for his departure from Alibaba Group to be very gradual: “The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”
Ma left Alibaba’s CEO position in 2013 and was succeeded first by Jonathan Lu. In 2015 Lu was replaced by Zhang, the company’s former COO. As its CEO and now its chairman, Zhang has taken Alibaba’s reins as it copes with a slowdown in China’s e-commerce market after a decade of explosive growth. The online retail landscape also now includes new players like Pinduoduo, which have gained an advantage by focusing on smaller cities, which are important growth markets for internet companies.
One interesting fact about the day Ma chose for his retirement as chairman is that it is Teachers’ Day in China. Ma is a former English teacher who is still nicknamed “Teacher Ma” and has said that he plans to devote time to education philanthropy.