How Jack Ma changed China

Jack Ma has become arguably the most public face of China's internet boom since he started e-commerce giant Alibaba 19 years ago.

Posted: Sep 10, 2018 9:53 PM
Updated: Sep 10, 2018 10:14 PM

Jack Ma, a billionaire pioneer of China's internet industry, will step down as Alibaba's executive chairman next year to make way for the company's next generation of leaders.

"No company can rely solely on its founders," Ma said in a letter Monday to customers, employees and shareholders. "Because of physical limits on one's ability and energy, no one can shoulder the responsibilities of chairman and CEO forever."

A former English teacher, Ma started Alibaba nearly two decades ago in his apartment and built it into a $420 billion business. The e-commerce company said CEO Daniel Zhang will succeed Ma in 12 months' time.

With a net worth of around $40 billion, Ma is one of the richest people in China. He maintains a high profile, speaking at conferences around the globe and rubbing shoulders with world leaders.

Ma, who will remain on the company's board of directors until 2020, said he has spent the last 10 years preparing for this succession plan, working to identify and develop the right talent inside Alibaba.

"Teachers always want their students to exceed them, so the responsible thing ... for me and the company to do is to let younger, more talented people take over in leadership roles," he said.

'Clark Kent' and 'Superman'

Zhang, who is 46, joined Alibaba in 2007 and held a range of senior management roles before taking over as CEO in 2015.

"Daniel is very low profile, he's quiet. He's mild mannered, he's more Clark Kent, and Jack's the Superman," said Duncan Clark, the author of "Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built."

Ma gave up the CEO role in 2013 and in recent years has found time to work on other projects, including philanthropy and performing in a kung fu movie.

He said on Monday, his 54th birthday, that he wants to return to education, adding that he is still young and has "lots of dreams to pursue."

Even after stepping away from Alibaba's senior management and board, he is expected to continue to shape the company's future through his lifetime membership of the Alibaba Partnership, a group of 36 people that can nominate a majority of the directors to the board.

"It doesn't really matter what his title is, he'll always have that founder street cred within the company and the market," Clark said.

The announcement of his departure comes at an uncertain time for Chinese tech companies. The stocks of Alibaba and other top firms have been hit by concerns about the health of China's economy and Beijing's increased scrutiny of the sector.

Amid the turmoil, the 12-month period before Ma hands over to Zhang will enable a smooth transition at Alibaba, Karen Chan, an equities analyst with Jefferies, wrote in a research note Monday.

Building a tech giant

Alibaba started out in 1999 as an online marketplace to connect Chinese businesses with one another. It has since expanded dramatically to become China's biggest tech company, helping merchants sell everything from luxury goods to fresh groceries to the country's growing number of online shoppers.

To handle the high volume of transactions, Ma set up Alipay, an online payments platform that allowed customers to pay for goods using a digital wallet. Alipay, now part of Alibaba-affiliate Ant Financial, is China's most popular digital-payment service.

Alibaba went public in 2014, raising $25 billion on Wall Street in the world's largest ever IPO.

The company has become an aggressive tech investor, pouring money into video streaming, online food delivery, dockless bike-sharing and ride-hailing start-ups in China and beyond.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 587049

Reported Deaths: 9287
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion810691296
Lake44121665
Allen31797541
Hamilton28178303
St. Joseph26684369
Elkhart24057340
Vanderburgh18519213
Tippecanoe17305121
Johnson14398284
Porter14342159
Hendricks13793241
Madison10509212
Vigo10432171
Clark10151129
Monroe9029108
Delaware8782129
LaPorte8721153
Kosciusko784677
Howard7834137
Warrick636790
Hancock633297
Bartholomew624294
Floyd6098105
Wayne5903156
Grant5799109
Dubois541670
Boone531467
Morgan512388
Marshall492484
Henry491164
Cass469060
Noble458757
Dearborn454544
Jackson413145
Shelby401178
Lawrence379475
Clinton363639
Gibson355056
DeKalb336363
Montgomery333851
Harrison326042
Knox325439
Miami308243
Steuben304940
Adams294435
Whitley292325
Wabash291645
Ripley290845
Putnam282447
Huntington281257
Jasper280733
White265738
Daviess260772
Jefferson248538
Fayette241348
Decatur241282
Greene232460
Posey230026
Wells228547
LaGrange223461
Clay216432
Scott216437
Randolph207540
Jennings191335
Sullivan188531
Spencer179917
Fountain178625
Washington175018
Starke170741
Jay162021
Fulton158829
Owen157837
Carroll151315
Orange150533
Rush148118
Perry145327
Vermillion144333
Franklin142533
Parke12788
Tipton127332
Pike113125
Blackford107022
Pulaski94637
Newton89020
Brown85530
Benton84110
Crawford7479
Martin69213
Warren6537
Switzerland6175
Union6063
Ohio4647
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 821507

Reported Deaths: 10135
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin96935704
Cuyahoga81526972
Hamilton60913438
Montgomery41445399
Summit33096726
Lucas29981591
Butler29513227
Stark24608400
Warren18792139
Lorain17916207
Mahoning16710335
Lake15255135
Clermont15053104
Delaware1374277
Licking12595132
Trumbull12352301
Fairfield1211380
Greene11532132
Medina11033165
Clark10557264
Wood9901154
Allen9481126
Portage8802105
Miami880173
Richland8748116
Marion7305113
Tuscarawas7095174
Columbiana7047124
Pickaway699850
Wayne6729162
Muskingum665342
Erie5866117
Hancock537090
Ross526087
Scioto514862
Geauga478255
Darke456089
Ashtabula437268
Union429228
Lawrence428951
Mercer423387
Sandusky419062
Seneca411755
Auglaize410959
Huron409138
Shelby408521
Jefferson400466
Belmont392840
Washington367940
Putnam363672
Athens36229
Madison337928
Knox334922
Ashland329138
Fulton324243
Defiance317078
Crawford311968
Preble310034
Brown294419
Logan291829
Ottawa280534
Clinton278143
Williams268966
Highland261318
Jackson255243
Guernsey239425
Champaign239227
Fayette224529
Morrow22194
Perry220517
Holmes217562
Henry208847
Hardin203032
Coshocton197120
Van Wert196244
Wyandot189949
Gallia189126
Adams165515
Pike163416
Hocking161923
Carroll148016
Paulding139021
Noble117540
Meigs102421
Monroe95227
Harrison8578
Morgan78227
Vinton65613
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
31° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 22°
Angola
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 23°
Huntington
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 23°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
31° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 22°
Lima
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 24°
Seasonal Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events