China’s richest man Jack Ma to retire from Alibaba on his birthday

Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma to retire

As he prepares to leave the company, Ma is among China's super-rich. He is a cult figure in China's internet industry and has attracted a large following among entrepreneurs and in pop culture alike. Alibaba has more than 86,000 employees on staff. It is symbolically significant that his reported retirement coincides with Teachers' Day in China, and Ma used to teach English before becoming a business magnate.

Ma said his retirement is not the end of an era but "the beginning of an era". He said he would be spending more of his time and fortune focused on education.

He said: "There's a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates". While Ma sees himself as an accidental executive who only entered the business world with Alibaba's founding nearly 20 years ago, he has become one of China's most recognized corporate leaders. The company had a market value of around $420 billion as of Friday.

Huge conglomerates like Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JD.com are China's equivalent of western tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook and Google. For Chinese tycoons to step aside in their 50s is rare; they usually remain at the top of their organisations for many years.

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Ma's retirement comes at an tough time for the Chinese tech industry. Liu, who goes by Richard Liu in the English-speaking world, was arrested on a rape allegation in Minneapolis during a business trip.

He retired as Alibaba's chief executive in 2013, eventually handing the reins to his protege Daniel Zhang, but he remained active within the company, providing strategic direction as chairman.

Ma's announcement was somewhat unorthodox; the Times is blocked in China by Communist Party censors, while there was no official statement from Alibaba. He owns a 6.4 percent stake of Alibaba, according to securities filings, but has considerably more sway over the company thanks to its complicated legal structure.

Ma started Alibaba in 1999 in his apartment in the Chinese city of Hangzhou and is now among the richest people in the world. It's also one of the largest payment processors, with its Alipay service (now Ant Financial) relying on 2D code linked to bank accounts to allow retailers to accept electronic payments. Alibaba now also handles digital payments, online banking, cloud computing and digital media and entertainment.

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Ma is a man "who deftly maneuvered through the discontinuities and barriers in China to create one of the greatest companies in the world", as Tim Draper, founder of Draper Associates, DFJ, and Draper University said.

The succession plan would make Alibaba one of the very few Asian companies that consciously detaches its corporate structure and daily operations from the founder.

The company's annual revenue totals about 250 billion yuan ($40 billion).

Its customers use its e-commerce platforms to order products that previous year led to package reaching 55-million a day.

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