Chairman and co-founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, has announced his plans to retire in 2019. This was revealed by an Alibaba spokesperson yesterday.
Before he started Alibaba (which went on to become one of the biggest e-commerce giants in the world) Jack used to be English teacher. Not only is he one of the richest persons in the world, he’s also greatly admired and looked up to in China.
Jack Ma’s net worth also rose with Alibaba’s valuation, the latter was at $420.8 billion when stocks closed on Friday
New York Times reported that he will step down on Monday (today) which also happens to be his 54th birthday, saying that he called it the “beginning of a new era” instead of the end.
The announcement itself was out of the norm, as NYT is blocked in China and Alibaba didn’t give out any statement mentioning Jack’s retirement. However, in an interview with Bloomberg on Friday he hinted at his retirement saying that he was planning to follow Bill Gates’ example:
There’s a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates. I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier. I think some day, and soon, I’ll go back to teaching.
This weekend, The South China Morning Post clarified that the NYT report wasn’t factually correct. An Alibaba spokesperson revealed on Sunday that Jack Ma will continue as the company’s executive chairman until September 10th 2019. He will then hand over chairmanship to CEO Daniel Zhang and will remain at the company’s Board of Directors until 2020.
Jack is from a generation of billionaire entrepreneurs, forming China’s biggest and most successful conglomerates, including Baidu, Tencent, JD.com and others. Think of them as something similar in scale to Facebook or Google in the West.
Jack was born to a not-so-well-off household in Hangzhou, Eastern Zhejiang province in China. He started off as a university teacher but gave up the job when he first discovered the internet. When he didn’t fare well with US venture capitalists, Jack convinced his friends to lend him $60,000 to start Alibaba, which came to life in an apartment in Hangzhou. Chinese media padded his story further, saying that his parents weren’t educated well, with his retired father earning close to $40 per month to support his family.
Jack, recounting how he started off while talking to CNN said,
The first time I used the internet, I touched on the keyboard and I find ‘well, this is something I believe, it is something that is going to change the world and change China.’
Alibaba, which is still headquartered in Hangzhou, originally began as a B2B selling platform, eventually becoming China’s biggest retail market. Now the company offers cloud services, an online payment platform (Alipay), digital media and entertainment.
Jack Ma’s net worth is currently north of $40 billion.