Jack Ma’s last day as Alibaba’s top executive was on Tuesday, but he’s hardly going quietly into the night. Nor is Ma relinquishing control of the company he started 20 years ago in an apartment and built into China’s largest.
“Alibaba is one of my dreams. There are a lot more things I want to do, such as education, charity and environmental issues,” he said in his departing remarks published by Sina Finance and translated by Karma. “There are so many things in the world that I’d like to experience, and there are also so many not so nice and right things that I would also like to tackle.”
The former English teacher, with a personal fortune of $41 billion, the 20th largest in the world according to Bloomberg, will work on education, environmental protection and public welfare issues in retirement. Philanthropy aside, he’ll keep a hand in leading Alibaba — he has a seat on the company’s governing board, and controls Ant Financial, the digital payments company affiliated with Alibaba.
“He’s not going away completely,” Duncan Clark, author of The House that Jack Ma Built, told Bloomberg. Ma’s departure coincides with a shift in favoritism on the part of the government toward public sector companies, he said. “Tech CEOs have been in the firing line. He reads well the music.”
Speaking to 60,000 employees at a farewell ceremony at Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center, Ma said he’s taking an unconventional approach with the next generation of Alibaba leaders, by attempting to “discover, cultivate and support new leadership, and make sure the heritage was carried on with the right corporate culture, system and talents.
“The best opportunity for Ali is China’s domestic demand, which will also benefit the world economy,” he said. “We hope Ali will take an active part in the next round of globalization, bringing the world opportunities, helping SMEs worldwide sell goods, giving financial access to the world population.”
Ma’s philanthropic pursuits include Ant Forest, which is seeking to plant 500 million trees, as well as the Jack Ma Foundation, which supports entrepreneurs and education efforts in China and beyond.
Last year Rwanda became Africa’s first country to launch Alibaba Business School, offering e-commerce training and aiming to alleviate obstacles faced by entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
Once an educator who called himself Chief Education Officer according to Clark’s reporting, we can expect Ma’s future initiatives to continue to carry that element.
“After today, I will start a new chapter of my life,” he said. “As a person that loves liveliness as much as me, I would not want to retire and leave the field at such a young age. I just want to switch to another universe to have fun.”
With contributions from Karma’s Scarlett Kuang