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Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma has confirmed, in a letter to shareholders, plans to step down next year, paving the way for company CEO Daniel Zhang to take over the running of the Chinese online retail giant.
Ma will officially leave his post on 10 September 2019, as part of a year-long phased handover of the business to Zhang, in what is being billed as an effort to ensure a “smooth and successful transition” occurs.
He will, however, remain on the board of directors at the company – which he co-founded in 1999 – until its annual shareholders’ meeting in 2020.
“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, and I have complete confidence in our next generation of leaders,” said Ma, in his letter to shareholders, according to US news site, CNBC.
“The transition demonstrates that Alibaba has stepped up to the next level of corporate governance from a company that relies on individuals, to one built on systems of organisational excellence and a culture of talent development.”
The letter further reveals the succession plan has been 10 years in the making, with Ma having already handed over the role of CEO to Zhang in 2013.
“Since he took over as CEO, he has demonstrated his superb talent, business acumen and determined leadership. Under his stewardship, Alibaba has seen consistent and sustainable growth for 13 consecutive quarters,” said Ma.
In recent years, the company has also rapidly grown its share of the cloud infrastructure services market outside of its native China, contributing to it becoming one of the top four biggest public cloud providers in the world, according to Synergy Research.
Having previously trained as a teacher, Ma’s letter goes on to outline his future plans to return to the education sector, while continuing to remain actively involved in the work the Alibaba Partnership holding company does.
The news coincides with the end of a charity campaign by Alibaba that has seen the retailer challenge consumers to carry out 300 million personal acts of philanthropy over the course of nine days, as part of a conference to champion the importance of giving something back to society.
Ma was among a number of keynote speakers to share his thoughts on the topic during the event, where he highlighted the cumulative power of carrying out small philanthropic acts every day.
“True philanthropy is a collective effort by many, and not many philanthropic deeds carried out by just one individual,” he said. “Everyone has the right and the ability to give. It doesn’t matter how big or small your contribution is, and it doesn’t mean you have to do something big or be someone important to do philanthropy.”
“Personal philanthropy is not about giving cash, but giving your heart, your time and most importantly, your action. Ultimately, personal philanthropy makes you a better person, and if everyone participates, we will have a better world.”