Spotlight shifted to Alibaba CEO Zhang

Andrew Burton  Getty Images

Andrew Burton Getty Images

"Today, as we mark the 19th anniversary of Alibaba, I am excited to share some news with you: with the approval of our board of directors, one year from today on September 10, 2019 which also falls on Alibaba's 20 anniversary, Group CEO Daniel Zhang will succeed me as chairman of the board of Alibaba Group", Ma announced in a statement.

Ma will remain on Alibaba's board of directors and continue to mentor the company's management.

A former chief financial officer who studied economics, Zhang isn't expected to rival the showmanship of Ma, who effortlessly generates newsworthy quotes, and who has donned a variety of wild costumes to dance and sing at his company's meetings and at festivals.

The total value of goods sold on all of its platforms rose 28 per cent over 2016 to 4.8 trillion yuan ($768 billion), according to the company.

Ma taught English at a college in eastern China's Hangzhou city for six years after graduating from Hangzhou Teacher's Institute in 1988. "I flew 870 hours last year, and this year, 1,000 hours", Ma said in an interview with American talk show host Charlie Rose in Detroit in June, 2017. Mr Zhang, a former accountant, will continue as CEO. In the letter, he said he "put a lot of thought and preparation into this succession plan for ten years".

In an email sent to his stakeholders, technology conglomerate Alibaba co-founder and executive chairman Jack Ma revealed who his successor will be. An investment from Japan's SoftBank Group Corp. helped the company expand to allow consumers in China buy online and fueled its rise.

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These include bricks-and-mortar retail, cloud computing, digital media, movies, the grocery sector, meal deliveries and advertising.

Analysts said the early withdrawal of the 54-year-old Ma, who became the charismatic face of a company that has revolutionized how and what China's people consume, will test the company's ability to carry on Ma's vision amid rising competition. "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 organisational excellence and a culture of talent development", Ma said. "He has understood Chinese consumer needs better than anyone and provided online services to meet them through convenience, entertainment and efficiencies".

He said, "Starting the process of passing the Alibaba torch to Daniel and his team is the right decision at the right time because I know from working with them that they are ready, and I have complete confidence in our next generation of leaders."
The U.S. Trade Representative's office has placed Alibaba's consumer-shopping site on a list of notorious markets. "The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba", concluded Ma. Such scandals haven't been associated with Ma or Alibaba.

But he doesn't have the same star power that founders in China's large tech companies hold, including Mr Ma, Baidu Inc's Robin Li and Tencent Holdings Ltd's Pony Ma.

"Day-to-day operations-wise Alibaba will not be affected that much".

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