Alibaba’s Jack Ma to step down in September 2019

The news, in a letter sent by Mr Ma to Alibaba customers and shareholders, follows conflicting reports over the weekend on the timing of his exit.

Mr Ma, one of China’s richest men, will hand over the reins to Daniel Zhang, currently chief executive.

Alibaba is one of the world’s most valuable companies – its shares nearly doubled in value last year.

Mr Zhang, who is 46, developed the company’s Singles’ Day promotion, which is the world’s biggest one-day online retail event.

Mr Zhang will become executive chairman on 10 September 2019, the company said in a statement.

The one year handover period is aimed at achieving a “smooth and successful transition”.

Mr Ma, previously an English teacher, co-founded Alibaba in 1999 and has seen it become one of the world’s biggest internet companies.

‘Superb talent’

Mr Ma, who has a current net worth of $36.6bn (£28.34bn), will remain a director on Alibaba’s board until its annual shareholder meeting in 2020. He is a permanent member of the Alibaba Partnership.

The charismatic Mr Ma, who is known for dressing like a rock star, said he wanted to return to education.

“The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things,” Mr Ma said, adding he plans to continue in his role as founding partner.

“The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”

He said Mr Zhang, who has been with Alibaba for 11 years, had demonstrated “superb talent” since taking over as chief executive.