According to an Alibaba spokesperson, Jack Ma is not stepping down nor retiring from his roles as CEO and Executive Chairman at the e-commerce giant on 10 September 2018. A report by the South China Morning Post, an Alibaba owned publication, states that Ma was quoted out of context by the New York Times. Instead, Ma is apparently going to unveil Alibaba's plans for his succession.
Ma started Alibaba in 1999 after leaving his job as an English teacher at a university.
“I sat down with our senior executives 10 years ago, and asked what Alibaba would do without me. I’m very proud that Alibaba now has the structure, corporate culture, governance and system for grooming talent that allows me to step away without causing disruption,” Ma is reported to have said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.
The news of Ma's alleged retirement came as a surprise. Just earlier in September 2018, Ma was present at the China-Africa summit where he made several commitments for Alibaba to train youth in digital skills in South Africa. More surprising, and perhaps telling, was not only that he was set to retire 3 days after making the announcement, but that Alibaba had not issued any official statement on his retirement nor had the company shared information on who would succeed Ma.
Ma is set to travel soon to Cape Town, South Africa to fulfil his promise President Cyril Ramaphosa at the China-Africa Summit to help set up a digital training centre to nurture entrepreneurship among South African youth as part of Alibaba and his philanthropy work.
Back to teaching
The New York Times had reported that Ma said he would be spending more of his time during retirement by focusing education. However, based on the interview with the South China Morning Post, this is something he will only do "some day."
“There are a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates. I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier. I think some day, and soon, I’ll go back to teaching. This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba.”
Cover image credit: Jack Ma, Alibaba Group, addressing startups and entrepreneurs in Johannesburg, South Africa.