Jack Ma announced that Daniel Zhang will replace him as co's Chmn

2018 Alibaba Xin Philanthropy Conference

2018 Alibaba Xin Philanthropy Conference

Alibaba co-founder and chairman Jack Ma will step down as head of the e-commerce giant on September 10, 2019, the company said on Monday.

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.

Ma made the announcement on his 54th birthday, capping a storied two-decade career during which the former English school-teacher built Alibaba into one of China's most celebrated corporations, running eBay Inc. out of the country and relegating Amazon.com Inc.to the unfamiliar position of also-ran.

Alibaba has since moved beyond e-commerce into cloud computing, digital payments, health care, Hollywood movies and backing China's startups.

One of China's biggest tech titans is stepping down. The Hurun Report, which follows China's wealthy, estimates his net worth at $37 billion.

Alibaba's 25 billion dollar (£19 billion) initial public stock offering on Wall Street in 2014 is the biggest to date by a Chinese company.

Ma, who also founded the company, will will complete his current term as a member of Alibaba Group's board of directors until 2020, the company said. That arrangement limits shareholder control, but Mr Ma has defended it as a way to keep Alibaba focused on long-term development.

E-commerce sales in China rose 32.2% a year ago to 7.2 trillion yuan, accounting for 20% of total retail spending.

But an Alibaba spokesman told the SCMP that The New York Times' story "was taken out of context, and [was] factually wrong". An investment from Japan's SoftBank Group Corp. helped the company expand to allow consumers in China buy online and fueled its rise.

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Zhang joined Alibaba in 2007 as chief financial officer of Taobao, when the consumer-to-consumer marketplace was fresh off a victory over Meg Whitman and eBay but also battling a reputation for fakes.

Ma fought back by launching Taobao, an eBay-style consumer-to-consumer site.

His instructions must be clear to his successor - focus on India that is not yet saturated like China and growing by leaps and bounds across the technology domains in which Alibaba has expertise.

With his impish grin, Ma in recent years has largely assumed a role as a globe-hopping ambassador, marked by playful antics such as dressing up as Michael Jackson for a dance routine at a company gathering last year. That service later became instrumental in helping fix Alibaba's image, and the USA removed the company from its "Notorious Markets" list in 2012 (though it re-joined in 2016).

Not just the private sector, Alibaba is also increasing its footprint in the government sector. Alibaba reported revenues of US$39.9bn for the fiscal year ending March 2018. It said the total value of goods sold across all of its platforms rose 28 percent over 2016 to 4.8 trillion yuan ($768 billion).

Analysts said the early withdrawal of the 54-year-old Ma, who became the charismatic face of a company that has revolutionized how and what China's people consume, will test the company's ability to carry on Ma's vision amid rising competition.

"On a day-to-day basis, Alibaba shareholders probably have little to fear", said Silvers.

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