Ma’s retirement is not a surprise. He announced last year that he would be standing aside to devote more time to “education, philanthropy and the environment.”
His departure coincides with his birthday and he was set to mark both occasions at a farewell party at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium in China on Tuesday.
Daniel Zhang, Alibaba’s CEO since 2015, will take the reins as chairman. Ma has previously said Zhang has “the logic and critical thinking skills of a supercomputer.”
Ma founded Alibaba in 1999 and has built the e-commerce company into a $454B empire, transforming the way Chinese people shop. In the process, Ma has become one of the richest men in the world, with a net worth of nearly $42B, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.
Alibaba’s sprawling operations have penetrated Hollywood in recent years. It took a minority equity stake in Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners in 2016, for example, which helped bring films like Green Book to Chinese audiences.
Alibaba marked Ma’s departure with a nostalgic video in which the billionaire returned to the humble Hangzhou apartment from which he founded his company (below).
Jake Kanter wrote this report.