Alibaba's Daniel Zhang to succeed Jack Ma as chairman in 2019

Billionaire entrepreneur to remain on board of directors until 2020

In this June 25, 2018, photo, Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group attends the ceremony to launch a blockchain-base remittance solution in Hong Kong. Jack Ma, who founded e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and helped to launch China's online retailing boom, announced Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 that he will step down as the company's chairman next September. In a letter released by Alibaba, Ma said he will be succeeded by CEO Daniel Zhang. Ma handed over the CEO's post to Zhang in 2013 as part of what he said was a succession process developed over a decade. (Chinatopix via AP)

Jack Ma, co-founder of China's largest e-commerce company Alibaba, will hand over his role of chairman to its group chief executive Daniel Zhang in 2019.

"On September 10, 2019, I will step down as chairman and hand the reins to Mr Zhang but will remain on Alibaba's board of directors until the annual shareholders meeting in 2020," Mr Ma wrote in a company letter on Monday. He will pursue "new dreams" while focusing on education and philanthropy.

"Starting the process of passing the Alibaba torch to Daniel and his team is the right decision at the right time, because I know from working with them that they are ready," Mr Ma said. "Since he took over as CEO, he has demonstrated his superb talent, business acumen and determined leadership."

Mr Ma, who turned 54 on Monday, relinquished the chief executive position in 2013 as part of what he said was a succession process developed over a decade. A former English teacher who founded Alibaba in 1999, Mr Ma announced his plans to retire last week.

His successor Mr Zhang, 46, is a finance veteran who has worked with the group for 11 years and is credited with establishing the Singles' Day on November 11, which has become the world's biggest online shopping event.

"I have put a lot of thought and preparation into this succession plan for 10 years," Mr Ma said.

After stepping down as chief executive he continued to serve as the company’s main international face at political and business events. Mr Ma also maintains a prominent global profile by overseeing charitable projects in education and environmental fields, including through his Jack Ma Foundation, and is a cult figure in China’s internet industry.

Mr Ma started the foundation, modeled partially on Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Bill Gates' efforts, 10 years ago in preparation for his retirement, he told Bloomberg TV last week.

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The Chinese e-commerce tycoon is considered one of China's richest men with a total net worth of $36.6 billion (Dh134.2bn) according to Forbes.

Alibaba has continued to grow since its record $25bn initial public offering in New York in 2014 and is now ranked among the world's top 10 companies by market value. The e-commerce giant has also moved into cloud computing, digital payments, health care, Hollywood movies and supporting Chinese start-ups.

Mr Ma said after his retirement he will continue his role at Alibaba Partnership, which is a group of 36 senior leaders entrusted with the company's mission, vision and values.

"I still have lots of dreams to pursue," Mr Ma said.  "The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things."

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