China’s richest man steps down as chairman of Alibaba

Jack Ma, who announced his retirement as chairman of the company last year, celebrated his final day yesterday as he marked his 55th birthday at an Olympic-sized sports stadium in Hangzhou, where he founded the company 20 years ago.

The Alibaba founder is stepping down as head of one of the world’s largest e-commerce companies, handing over the reins to his handpicked successor, low profile Daniel Zhang, Alibaba’s chief executive and accountant by training.

“After tonight I will start a new life. I do believe the world is good, there are so many opportunities, and I love excitement so much, which is why I will retire early,” tearful Ma said at the Tuesday event.

“I’m the person always looking forward. I don’t want to look at the things back,” he had said in a video posted Monday where he also said that the reason why many companies fail is because they forget about their dreams. “I is the dreams that keep us working hard. Its dreams that keep us never afraid of mistakes … of setbacks…”

Ma is a former English teacher and has previously said he will turn his attention to philanthropy, focusing on education in rural areas.

“I still have lots of dreams to pursue. Those who know me know that I do not like to sit idle. The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things,” Ma said in a letter announcing his resignation last year.

Ma’s net worth is $38.4bn according to Forbes, making him China’s richest man. His company, which listed in the New York stock exchange in 2014 in the largest IPO to date, has a market capitalisation of $460b.

Ma’s resignation comes at a time when growth of China’s e-commerce industry has slowed, along with the broader economy, and the company faces more competition from other large tech firms. Alibaba has expanded into financial services, mobile payments, cloud computing and artificial intelligence.