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China’s richest man Jack Ma to step down from Alibaba for ‘philanthropy’

08 September 2018

In an interview with The New York Times, Ma said it was time for him to focus on his first passion: education. He said he would be spending more of his time and fortune focused on education.

Ma told the newspaper that his retirement "is not the end of an era but "the beginning of an era".

The announcement is likely to send shock waves through the Chinese technology industry.

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Richard Liu, the billionaire founder of Alibaba's main competitor, was briefly arrested in the U.S. over a rape allegation last week. Shares in the company dropped this week after it emerged that USA police had opened an investigation into the claims, which Liu denied through his lawyers. 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 was born in September 1964 to Chinese traditional musician-storytellers living in Hangzhou, an ancient capital that has become a global hi-tech hub and bastion of entrepreneurship, in part because of Alibaba's base there. He started in 1999 as a business-to-business marketplace, backed by $60,000 from 18 co-founders. Alibaba later rolled out Alipay, an online payment service, to facilitate transactions in a country where few people had credit cards.

The company, still headquartered in his hometown, initially allowed businesses to sell products to each other online but soon morphed into China's largest online retail market.

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Among China's biggest companies, Alibaba is viewed as one of the firms with the deepest ranks of management talent. Ant Financial has revenues of about $40 billion a year.

Ma is following a similar path as Bill Gates, who has dedicated himself to philanthropy after retirement, and has cited Microsoft's co-founder as an inspiration in an interview with Bloomberg TV recently.

Speaking at an event in Australia in 2017, Ma explained his view on philanthropy. "I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier", he said.

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China’s richest man Jack Ma to step down from Alibaba for ‘philanthropy’