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Alibaba chairman Jack Ma is stepping down in mark of new era for the online giant

Alibaba chairman, and the richest man in China, Jack Ma is to step down from his role at the e-commerce giant following a 12 month transition period as the firm appoints his successor.

The news that Ma is to step away from the company he founded in 1999 and saw grow to become one of the world’s largest online marketplaces, marks a new era for Alibaba, as it looks to replace Ma with its chief executive officer, Daniel Zhang.

Some 20 years on from its beginning, Alibaba is valued at $480bn and Ma is known as China’s richest man, with a net worth of $38.6bn according to Forbes. 

Over the years, Alibaba has grown from an online marketplace into an e-commerce giant, with interests ranging from financial services to artificial intelligence. It was originally set up as a trading platform for businesses, before expanding into consumer e-commerce in 2003, and later launching the digital payment platform, Alipay.

Ma is recognised as a flamboyant businessman who argued in favour of 12 hour working days, and a six day week in China. The 55 year old has said he will focus on philanthropy and education as he steps down from the role.

In the meantime, it is reported that Ma has been bringing in teams of technology and finance experts to the Alibaba fold, as he has moved away from business dealings. It’s been reported that this moves will have positioned the company for a ‘more seamless transition for Alibaba to a future without its co-founder.’

His successor, Daniel Zhang, is said to be unlike Ma, with an unassuming way that sees him shy away from the spotlight. Inside, Zhang is reportedly known as Xiaoyaozi – the name of a character n a Chinese martial arts novel. The name references Zhang’s tendency to ‘stay out of battles’ but with a ‘great ability at training others.’

Zhang is taking on a big task; the Chinese market – where Alibaba makes two thirds of its revenue – is slowing down, while attempts to expand internationally have struggled.

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