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Jack Ma will call it a day exactly a year from now.
China’s richest man, who helped found Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. about two decades ago, has outlined plans to pass on the reins of the firm to Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang.
An English schoolteacher-turned-business tycoon, Ma will pass on the baton on his 55th birthday, in exactly 12 months’ time, but will remain on the board of the e-commerce firm until 2020. In an interview to Bloomberg TV, Ma had said he wants to focus more on philanthropy and establish the Jack Ma Foundation.
Ma started Alibaba.com in 1999 as a business-to-business marketplace with 17 co-founders. Under Ma’s leadership, the company expanded into cloud computing, digital payments, healthcare, Hollywood movies and backing China’s startups.
The Letter To His Staff
In his letter to Alibaba shareholders and employees, Ma said that he has been making his succession plans for ten years now. “This transition demonstrates that Alibaba has stepped up to the next level of corporate governance from a company that relies on individuals, to one built on systems of organizational excellence and a culture of talent development,” Ma wrote.
He added that as a former teacher, the responsible thing for him to do is to let younger, more talented people take over.
Here’s a sampling of Ma’s leadership strategies:
"When the team’s all a bunch of scientists, it is best to have a peasant lead the way. His way of thinking is different. It’s easier to win if you have people seeing things from different perspectives." - Jack Ma, Co-Founder, Alibaba
From Teacher To Billionaire
Alibaba was started in 1999 by 17 founders with $60,000. And that was at a time when the dot-com bubble crashed leaving investors wary of internet companies.
Since then, Ma roped in SoftBank's Masayoshi Son as an investor, created the online payments system - Alipay, and took the company public in 2014.
Here is a look at how Ma turned Alibaba into Asia’s most valuable firm:
An Incomplete Plan?
One year is a long time in business. For Alibaba it may not be enough. While he has made his succession plans, he has failed to put in place a new business model for Zhang to build upon, writes Tim Culpan.
- Alibaba’s operating margin has fallen to historic lows as it has failed to find new businesses to replace its aging e-commerce model.
- It’s marketing model only works when turnover is brisk, but is strained when things slow and rivals come knocking.
- Then there’s Ant Financial. The world is in a tizzy about what the online financial provider could or might be in future.
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