Jack Ma steps down at Alibaba

Ding Yining
Founder says his decision marks the beginning of a new corporate governance scheme at the e-commerce giant and the next stage of its future development.
Ding Yining

Jack Ma gives his speech during the Alibaba gala on Tuesday in Hangzhou, China.

"The green mountain won't change, the flowing water is endless. See you around!" Alibaba Founder Jack Ma told the 20th anniversary gala of the company as he officially stepped down as board chairman on Tuesday, which was also his 55-year-old birthday.

"Today marks not my retirement, but the beginning of a new corporate governance scheme of Alibaba and the next stage of the company's future development," he said. 

The Hangzhou native, a former English teacher,  said he had been preparing for this moment for 10 years, and he called on businesses to truly embrace sustainable development, inclusiveness and altruism, the three biggest factors for a successful business. 

Instead of becoming a family business, or seeking a professional executive management team, he hopes to bring the company's core values into its everyday operations and to seek team leaders that truly believe in the company's core mission. 

"We'll be facing the biggest challenges in the next 30 years with new technology advances, artificial intelligence and we must remain optimistic and actively embrace the changes," he said. 

Ma also said that the greatest chance for China to develop its economy was to boost domestic consumption and further embrace the market economy. 

"I've been even busier after I stopped acting as CEO six years ago, and the founding of Alibaba is just one of my many dreams," he said. "I'm still very young, and there are many places I want to visit and many more things to do, among them of course environmental protection and social service." 

Ma announced a year ago he would be passing the torch to chief executive officer Daniel Zhang on Teachers' Day, a transition that signifies the company has stepped up to the next level of corporate governance. 

The e-commerce giant celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Hangzhou Olympics Sports Expo Center with 60,000 people attending, mostly employees who won their tickets through lucky draws. 

After stepping down as chief executive officer in 2013, Ma still remained a pivotal figure, a popular speaker at many public occasions at home and abroad.

Alibaba Group reiterated its core mission on Tuesday — "to make it easy to do business anywhere" — and said it plans to see these tasks carried out by employees and executives that share the same value and vision through structural and management efforts.

It aims to serve 2 billion consumers, create100 million jobs and help 10 million small and medium enterprises become profitable by 2036. 

The mission, which was first put forward in 2001, to help businesses whether online and offline, continues to unite staff and partners from all industry sectors. 

Alibaba, which first started as a business-to-business marketplace site in a Hangzhou apartment to help merchants sell their products overseas, has grown to include online retailing, logistics, payment services, digital entertainment and cloud computing, coinciding with the unlocking of massive domestic consumption power. 

In 2014, the company invited merchants, service staff and customers to ring the bell on its initial public offering New York Stock Exchange instead of executives or investors. 

Ma will remain a lifetime partner in the Alibaba Partnership and is a member of its partnership committee. 

He will be devoting more time to educational causes and charity. 

"Alibaba's management structure and professional executives have evolved over the years and its business operation no longer relies on a few number of founders to drive business growth in the future," said Founder Cao Lei at private consultancy China E-commerce Research Center. 

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