Jack Ma, billionaire and chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., gestures as he arrives for an event at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan (Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg)  

As Alibaba Prepares For Life After Jack Ma, Here’s A Look At The Billionaire’s Greatest Hits

Jack Ma will call it a day exactly a year from now.

China’s richest man, who co-founded Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. in 1999, has outlined plans to pass on the reins of the firm to Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang.

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 with Bloomberg TV last week, Ma had said that he wants to focus more on philanthropy and establish the Jack Ma Foundation.

Also read: Jack Ma to Hand Alibaba's Helm to CEO Daniel Zhang Next Year

Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., reacts to a question during a Bloomberg Television interview at the company’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)  
Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., reacts to a question during a Bloomberg Television interview at the company’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)  

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. 
Jack Ma, Co-Founder, Alibaba 

He added that as a former teacher, the responsible thing for him to do is to let younger, more talented people take over.

Read the full text of Jack Mas letter here.

Leadership Lessons

Over the years, Ma has become a role model for e-commerce entrepreneurs and has developed a cult following, especially in China. 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 
As Alibaba Prepares For Life After Jack Ma, Here’s A Look At The Billionaire’s Greatest Hits

From Teacher To Billionaire

Alibaba was started in 1999 with $60,000, at a time when the dot-com bubble had 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, Ma 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.

Read more on why Alibaba is left in a no man’s land.