BEIJING-Jack Ma, the billionaire tycoon who rode the currents of China's rising affluence to build one of the world's biggest e-commerce companies, is planning a transition out of his role as executive chairman role at Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.to focus on philanthropy and other pursuits, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Ma, a former tour guide, English teacher and self-styled "China's Forrest Gump", would remain on the company's board of directors and continue to mentor the company's management, the New York Times said. That fuelled his net worth to more than $40 billion, making him China's richest man. "I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier".
Ma ended his time as chief executive officer in 2013, but has remained chairman and the public face of the company, which now has a market value of more than $400 billion.
Earlier Friday, Ma said he could "retire earlier" during a conversation with Bloomberg about Bill Gates' career. Firms including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JD.com have flourished in recent years, growing to almost rival American internet behemoths like Amazon and Google in their size, scope and ambition. He said he would be spending more of his time and fortune focused on education.
He said that his departure is not the end but "the beginning of an era".
Alibaba started as a business-to-business marketplace, but had enormous growth when it started selling to consumers. Alibaba later rolled out Alipay, an online payment service, to facilitate transactions in a country where few people had credit cards.More news: Brazilians see metaphor for their struggles in museum fire
Seeing an opportunity for small businesses to buy and sell their goods online, he started Alibaba, initially running the company out of his apartment in the eastern city of Hangzhou, where the company's headquarters remains.
It owns a stake in China's hugely popular Twitter-like Weibo platform and in 2015 it bought the South China Morning Post newspaper.
Ma's retirement makes him one of the first founders of a generation of Chinese internet entrepreneurs to step down.
Ma's success was evident after Alibaba's Taobao bested eBay in China, forcing the U.S. auction site to largely withdraw from the country in 2006.
Ma has long shown an admiration for Microsoft founder Bill Gates who has donated vast amounts of his wealth to philanthropic causes.