Alibaba’s Jack Ma, China’s richest man, to retire at 54

Screenshot via Bloomberg

Screenshot via Bloomberg

He has told the New York Times that he will now focus on philanthropy in education.

Alibaba transformed how the Chinese people shop and make purchases, and made Ma the richest man in the world's most populous country.

Ma built the company into a multibillion-dollar internet colossus.

Shares of Alibaba fell more than two per cent in after-hours trading on reports of his retirement.

Ma will turn 54 years old on Monday, the day he is retiring.

"I sat down with our senior executives 10 years ago, and asked what Alibaba would do without me", Ma said in an interview with the South China Morning Post, which Alibaba owns.

"This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba", he told Bloomberg TV recently. In China, it's also a holiday known as "Teacher's Day".

He said: "There's a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates". The New York Times is blocked in China by Communist Party censors and there was no official statement from Alibaba on Saturday.

Considered China's richest person, the e-commerce company's co-founder holds a spot in the world's top twenty billionaires in the world with a reported net worth of $39.9 billion.

Ma started his journey with just United States $ 60,000 - loaned to him by friends, and started Alibaba in 1999.

Ma graduated from the Hangzhou Teachers College with a major in English-language education, and went on to teach at another university in the city, where Alibaba is still headquartered. He said that his departure is not the end but "the beginning of an era".

Ma has been backing away from Alibaba over the past few years, stepping down as chief executive officer in 2013 but remaining very involved in the company's strategic planning, according to the Times. He was released and has since returned to Beijing, where JD.com is based. The Chinese e-commerce giant, since then is being managed by its current CEO Daniel Zhang, who is likely to succeed Ma after his retirement. Alibaba now also handles digital payments, online banking, cloud computing and digital media and entertainment.

In 2014, he created the Jack Ma Foundation, which has worked to improve education in rural China.

In an interview earlier this week, Ma had signaled that he was thinking about focusing more on philanthropy. However, in contrast to the American magnate, he wants to "retire earlier".

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