Tue, Sep 11, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Jack Ma to give Alibaba’s helm to CEO

‘ENVIABLE CLARITY’:Jack Ma has set up a foundation in his own name in preparation for his retirement and said that he would hand over the reins in exactly 12 months’ time


Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴) is heralding the end of the Jack Ma (馬雲) era.

A former English teacher who helped found Alibaba Group Holding Ltd two decades ago, Ma outlined plans to hand the executive chairman role to Daniel Zhang (張勇), a finance veteran who has presided over an ambitious expansion and won over investors in three years as chief executive officer.

Ma is to officially pass the baton in exactly 12 months’ time, on his 55th birthday, but remain on the board until 2020.

He intends to focus on philanthropy and education, but also pursue unspecified “new dreams,” he said in a statement yesterday.

China’s richest man has become synonymous with turning the company that started in his Hangzhou apartment into a global e-commerce giant with burgeoning cloud computing and package delivery businesses.

Ma’s 46-year-old successor has pushed Alibaba deeper into the wallets of Chinese consumers as it bought and transformed brick-and-mortar outlets: A so-called “New Retail” vision that has cost billions of dollars and took it into the realm of physical stores.

“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,” Ma said in the statement. “Since he took over as CEO, he has demonstrated his superb talent, business acumen and determined leadership.”

The succession plan would unite Alibaba’s two biggest roles for the first time since Ma gave up his chief executive officer title in 2013 to focus on being chairman and groom lieutenants, including Zhang, a Shanghai-educated certified accountant.

Zhang joined Taobao.com (淘寶) in 2007 as chief financial officer of the consumer-to-consumer marketplace. He pioneered the company’s push into getting established brands to sell to customers and is credited with helping turn Singles’ Day into a Chinese shopping bonanza.

Zhang’s appointment might come as a surprise to those accustomed to tracking Ma’s other high-profile lieutenants, such as vice chairman Joseph Tsai (蔡崇信).

The chief executive officer has proven a capable hand and Alibaba’s stock has surged 87 percent over his tenure and now has a market value of about US$420 billion, bigger than arch-foe and WeChat operator Tencent Holdings Ltd (騰訊).

Ma is moving on with Alibaba in a dominant position in China and pushing into overseas markets from Southeast Asia to Russia. Leadership would now fall to Zhang and the 35 other partners who control the company.

The billionaire started Alibaba.com in 1999 as a business-to-business marketplace with 17 cofounders.

An investment from Japan’s Softbank Group Corp helped the company expand to allow consumers in China buy online and fueled its rise.

Through the Taobao and Tmall.com (天貓) platforms, it is responsible for billions of dollars in sales and last year saw daily package deliveries reach 55 million.

Alibaba has since moved into cloud computing, digital payments, healthcare, Hollywood movies and backing China’s start-ups.

Its share price has more than doubled since its record 2014 initial public offering.

“Ma possesses an enviable clarity about how everything fits together,” said Mark Tanner, founder of Shanghai-based research and marketing company China Skinny. “He has understood Chinese consumer needs better than anyone and provided online services to meet them through convenience, entertainment and efficiencies.”

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