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Jack Ma: English teacher turned internet tycoon

08 September 2018

Jack Ma, the iconic Chinese entrepreneur, is making plans for a future after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the company he co-founded and turned into Asia's most valuable company. The New York Times is blocked in China by Communist Party censors and there was no official statement from Alibaba on Saturday. The company has increased its presence outside China by investing in e-commerce and online finance companies in India and Southeast Asia.

Alibaba has one of the strongest management teams in corporate China and even if he steps down, Ma is likely still to have a role in setting top-level strategy, says Brock Silvers, MD of Kaiyuan Capital. However, the Chinese billionaire will still remain on Alibaba's board of directors.

Alibaba has been referred to as the Amazon of China. Alibaba later rolled out Alipay, an online payment service, to facilitate transactions in a country where few people had credit cards. "I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier", he said.

Ma, 53, is also China's wealthiest individual. He started Alibaba.com in 1999 as a business-to-business marketplace, backed by $60,000 from 18 co-founders. Alibaba now also handles digital payments, online banking, cloud computing and digital media and entertainment.

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As Alibaba has flourished, Ma has talked many times about how he did not want to spend his whole life at the company, saying he would retire one day and go back to teaching.

Porter Erisman, a former Alibaba employee who made a documentary about the firm, "Crocodile in the Yangtze", said: "What Silicon Valley is known for, he embodies a lot of that with Chinese characteristics - that spirit of openness, risk-taking, innovation".

Ma's retirement comes after a torrid couple of weeks for his rival tech CEOs in China. He was released and returned to China, although the investigation remains active.

News of the executive's departure comes amid a tumultuous period the industry.

Jack Ma: English teacher turned internet tycoon