Jack Ma, Alibaba co-founder and China’s richest man, announces retirement

2018 Alibaba Xin Philanthropy Conference

His retirement is not an end of an era but "the beginning of an era", Ma told the publication in an interview adding that he would be spending more of his time and fortune on education.

Ma, a natural salesman and charismatic leader, co-founded Alibaba with 17 others - some of them his students - out of his apartment in Hangzhou in eastern Zhejiang province in 1999. Ma helped build it into a $420 billion company with more than 500 million Chinese customers.

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 will turn 54 years old on Monday, the day he is retiring.

"People in China and America, one thing we have in common is the heart of love and respect", Ma said.

Ma's announcement was somewhat unorthodox; the Times is blocked in China by Communist Party censors, while there was no official statement from Alibaba. But Ma on Thursday told Bloomberg TV that he was mulling an early retirement similar to Bill Gates' early exit from Microsoft.

The day Jack Ma will be stepping down, September 10, is also celebrated as Teacher's Day in China.

"I'm sure he'll be just as involved as he has been in his chairman role, even if he doesn't have the formal title", said Carter.

More news: Watch the moment Ayanna Pressley learned she won the primary race

While Alibaba has become dominant in China, it has faced a tougher time expanding internationally.

Considered China's richest person, the e-commerce company's co-founder holds a spot in the world's top twenty billionaires in the world with a reported net worth of $39.9 billion.

Ma's retirement makes him one of the first founders of a generation of Chinese internet entrepreneurs to step down.

"I don't think it means that much, frankly".

He retired as Alibaba's chief executive in 2013, eventually handing the reins to his protege Daniel Zhang, but he remained active within the company, providing strategic direction as chairman. Alibaba now also handles digital payments, online banking, cloud computing and digital media and entertainment.

Ma said he sees himself as an accidental executive.

In 2014, he created the Jack Ma Foundation, which has worked to improve education in rural China. "I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier", Ma said during an interview last week with Bloomberg Television.

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