Alibaba’s founder and chairman Jack Ma has officially stepped down from the company to retire on his 55th birthday with a £31 billion retirement fund.
Ma, dubbed the “Steve Jobs of China”, co-founded China’s largest ecommerce platform in 1999 and has since ascended to the country’s richest man.
Daniel Zhang, who was appointed as Alibaba’s chief executive in 2015, will now also succeed Ma as chairman.
The transition was announced last year and comes after Ma stepped down as chief executive in 2013 amid a gradual shift away from overseeing the day-to-day running of Alibaba.
It is understood that Ma will continue serving on the retailer’s board until its annual general shareholders’ meeting next year and will remain a lifetime partner of Alibaba Partnership, a select group of senior Alibaba managers which has the power to nominate and appoint members of the board.
Often referred to as “Teacher Ma” due to his former career as an English teacher, Ma will now move into a career as a full-time philanthropist.
In 2017 his charity pledged $45 million over 10 years to help nurture future teaching talent in rural China.
His departure comes amid a slowdown in China’s domestic retail industry and broader economy, forcing Alibaba to expand its operations into new markets and new sectors including cloud computing, artificial intelligence and financial services.