One of China’s best known corporate leaders, Jack Ma (馬雲), will step down as CEO of Alibaba Group (阿里巴巴), the e-commerce firm he founded in 1999 to tap the nation’s enormous online shopping potential.
Ma said that younger people would be better placed to run the company.
Ma said he would name a successor by May 10, when he switches to the role of executive chairman.
He said most of Alibaba’s leaders “born in the 1960s” would also pass their leadership responsibilities to younger colleagues.
“As a founder CEO, stepping down ... is a difficult decision. It’s not because I wanted to take things easy [though the job of Alibaba CEO is no easy task], it is because I see that Alibaba’s young people have better, more brilliant, dreams than mine, and they are more capable of building a future that belongs to them,” Ma wrote in an e-mail to employees.
The shift is a significant one for Alibaba and follows moves announced last week to chop the group into 25 smaller divisions — to give managers more flexibility.
It also comes after a transformative deal Alibaba struck with Yahoo Inc last year, in which the Chinese company agreed to buy back about half of the stake in itself held by its US partner.
The news came ahead of a potential initial public offering (IPO) by Alibaba.
“A series of changes at Alibaba Group may suggest that an IPO is imminent,” said Wendy Huang, an analyst at CIMB Securities Ltd in Hong Kong.