The news was sent by Ma himself to Alibaba customers and shareholders, following conflicting reports over the weekend on the timing of his exist. Ma will hand over the reins to Daniel Zhang, who is currently the chief executive. Zhang will assume the new position on 10 September 2019, said the company in a statement.
The one year handover period is aimed at achieving a “smooth and successful transition.”
Ma, a former English teacher, co-founded Alibaba in 1999 and has seen it become one of the world’s biggest internet companies.
“Teachers always want their students to exceed them, so the responsible thing to do for me and the company to do is to let younger, more talented people take over in leadership roles,” said Ma said in the letter, which was released on his 54th birthday.
Ma will remain a director on Alibaba’s board until its annual shareholder meeting in 2020. He is a permanent member of the Alibaba Partnership. The charismatic business leader has stated his intention to return to the education field.
“The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things,” Mr Ma said, adding he plans to continue in his role as founding partner.
“The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.” He added.
Alibaba listed in New York in 2014 in what was then the world’s biggest initial public offering of shares. It reported revenues of $39.9bn for the fiscal year ended March 2018.
Ma’s net worth is currently valuated at $36.6bn.