Jack Ma is to step down from his position as CEO of the Alibaba group, although he will remain as full-time executive chairman. He plans to name his successor who is expected to come from within the Alibaba group on the 10th of May when his role change becomes official.
The 10th of May is a significant date, it’s the 10th anniversary of Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace, which drove eBay out of China in the Meg Whitman years.
Jack founded Alibaba in 1999, and since then it’s grown to become one of the best known websites around the world. Jack was passionate about getting China hooked up to the Internet and as a young Chinese English teacher he had the vision of how China simply could not be left out of the Internet revolution.
Convincing 17 friends that China needed to get on the web and start trading with the world between them they raised $60,000 and that was the start of Alibaba. Fourteen years later Jack says “at 48 I am no longer ‘young’ for the Internet business.
In an email to employees Jack explained that when he was 35 he was energetic and fresh-thinking with nothing to worry about but that he recognised years ago that he wasn’t suited to be a traditional CEO of a big company. It’s often the case that founders aren’t the best people to be CEO once a company grows – one of the tasks of the new CEO will be to prepare Alibaba for the inevitable launch onto the stock market at which time Jack Ma, as founder, will become a very rich man – a reasonable estimate of Alibaba’s value is in the region of $40 billion.
Jack won’t be leaving Alibaba any time soon though, without having the responsibilities of CEO, his new role will free him up to look at corporate development and ensuring that the Alibaba group grows ethically, as well as improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as the local community and society at large.