In 1999, Jack Ma co-founded Alibaba along with 17 other people in Hangzhou, China. Under Ma’s leadership, the company grew to become one of the largest e-commerce groups in the world. Through the creation of online portals such as Alibaba.com, Taobao, and Tmall – the company provided efficient business-to-business, consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer sales services to booming Chinese clienteles. Alibaba also created Alipay, an online payment system that eventually grew to become China’s largest. In 2014, with a market value of $231 billion, Alibaba’s initial public offering (IPO) was $25 billion – the world’s highest in history. Alibaba currently holds the 9th highest global brand value – evaluating at $542 billion. With a legacy cemented in stone, Jack Ma announced, on 10th September, 2018, that he would step down as the executive chairman of the company in 2019.
The position would be filled by his protégée, Daniel Zhang. In 2013, when Ma stepped down as the CEO of the company, it was Zhang who invariably took his place. Since then, Ma has prepared Zhang to take over his position following his eventual retirement. Zhang’s continued commitment to the company and leadership as CEO has seen Alibaba manage 13 consecutive quarters of “consistent and sustainable growth”.
In a letter to Alibaba customers and shareholders, Ma wrote that he, “put a lot of thought and preparation into this succession plan for ten years.” He praised Zhang on countless occasions, stating, “His analytical mind is unparalleled, he holds dear our mission and vision, he embraces responsibility with passion, and he has the guts to innovate and test creative business models.” Ma also stated that he wished to remain on Alibaba’s board of director’s until 2020.
During his stint in Alibaba, Ma became China’s richest man, with a net worth of more than $40 billion. Along with personal success, he managed to transform Alibaba into the multibillion-dollar e-commerce giant it is today. More than 500 million Chinese customers use their online portals to purchase a myriad of items. The success of Alibaba lies in its versatility – with the company handling digital payments, online banking, cloud computing, and digital entertainment as well. As of 2018, it had the 9th highest global brand value, at $542 billion. Its annual revenue is far greater than Walmart, Amazon, and eBay combined – the top three U.S. based sales companies. On 11th November, 2017, Alibaba orchestrated China’s Singles’ Day into the world’s biggest online and offline shopping day. On that day, Alibaba managed to sell goods worth more than $25.4 billion.
With the company in stable grounds and in the hands of a capable protégé, Jack Ma plans to spend his fortune on philanthropic endeavors focused on education. His letter ends on the following note, “As for myself, I still have lots of dreams to pursue. Those who know me know that I do not like to sit idle…I also want to return to education, which excites me with so much blessing because this is what I love to do. The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things – because what if new dreams can be realized?”