Jack Ma, who founded e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and helped to launch China's online retailing boom, announced Monday that he will step down as the company's chairman next September. In a letter released by Alibaba, Ma said he will be succeeded by CEO Daniel Zhang. Ma handed over the CEO's post to Zhang in 2013 as part of what he said was a succession process developed over a decade.
Ma, a former English teacher, founded Alibaba in 1999 in an apartment in the eastern city of Hangzhou to connect Chinese suppliers with foreign retailers. It expanded into consumer retailing, online finance and other services, becoming the world's biggest e-commerce company by total value of goods sold across all its platforms.
Ma became one of the world's richest entrepreneurs and one of China's best-known business figures. The Hurun Run report, which follows China's wealthy, estimates his net worth at $37 billion. Alibaba said Ma, who turned 54 on Monday, will remain a member of the Alibaba Partnership, a group that has the right to nominate a majority of the company's board of directors.
"This transition demonstrates that Alibaba has stepped up to the next level of corporate governance from a company that relies on individuals, to one built on systems of organizational excellence and a culture of talent development," Ma said in his letter.