Alibaba Founder Chairman Jack Ma steps down

Alibaba chairman Jack Ma stepped down from the Chinese e-commerce giant today (10th), marking the end of an era for the company.

He co-founded Alibaba in 1999 and it has become one of the world’s biggest internet firms and his success and colourful style has made him one of China’s most recognisable businessmen.

Daniel Zhang, currently Alibaba’s Chief Executive, will replace him as Executive Chairman.

The company is now valued at $480bn (£389bn) and Mr Ma is China’s richest man, with a net worth of $38.6bn according to Forbes. He is also the first founder among a generation of prominent Chinese internet entrepreneurs to step down from his company.

“I think it will be very hard to replace somebody like Jack Ma,” said Rebecca Fannin, author of a book on China’s technology titans. “He is one of a kind. He is the Steve Jobs of China.”

The 55-year-old is expected to focus on philanthropy and education after he steps down.

Duncan Clark, who has written a book about Mr Ma and is also chairman of investment consultancy BDA China, said Ma had gradually brought technology and finance experts into Alibaba and had been “consciously edging himself out”.

Those moves are expected to ensure a more seamless transition for Alibaba to a future without its co-founder.

Born to a poor family in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, Ma began his career as an teacher. He bought his first computer at the age of 33 and was surprised when no Chinese beers turned up in his first online search for “beer”.

With no background in computing, Mr Ma co-founded Alibaba in his apartment, having convinced a group of friends to invest in his online marketplace. It was not the first time he had tried to get a start-up off the ground.

“Alibaba was his third attempt at a company, he had two trials before,” said Clark. “He saw the promise of the internet quite early on, but it took a while for him to have a vehicle.”

Lacking a background in technology and with no particular strength in finance, Mr Clark said charisma and strategic vision have been Mr Ma’s biggest assets.\

– This is based on a BBC article