Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma retires as CEO on 55th birthday

World Today

The co-founder and CEO of online giant Alibaba is stepping down. Last year, Jack Ma announced he would retire on his 55th birthday, which falls on Tuesday, September 10.

CGTN’s Gerald Tan takes a look at his extraordinary career, and what lies ahead for China’s richest man.

A superstar of Chinese e-commerce, Jack Ma defies conventions. His playful image runs counter to a stereotypical CEO’s.

Yet his journey from English teacher to tech tycoon is one of modern China’s best-known success stories.

In 1999, Ma co-founded a business marketplace web page out of his apartment in his hometown, Hangzhou.

Fast forward 20 years, and Alibaba is a global empire spanning online retail, cloud computing, digital banking, even entertainment.

Success didn’t come easy for Ma. He failed his college entrance exam twice, got turned down by Harvard University 10 times, and was rejected for 30 jobs after graduation.

The ‘no’s kept coming when he sought venture capital to back his internet enterprises. But his favorite movie character inspired him to carry on.

Ma said, “When people call me crazy. You’re doing something that will never work. You are stupid, how can you do that model? Amazon, this model; eBay, that model, why Alibaba, this model? I told myself, Forrest Gump said go ahead. Never care about the other people.”

The investors who said ‘no,’ may now be looking back with regret.

Alibaba is a multi-billion dollar behemoth, boasting more than 720 million active users each month.

The company is often credited with helping to transform the Chinese economy by giving choice to consumers in rural areas; unlocking the domestic buying power; and spurring the growth of countless small businesses.

In 2014, Alibaba shattered records at the New York Stock Exchange. Its initial public offering raised $25 billion — a feat unheard of before, or since.

Ma said he would like focus on his charities once he steps down as CEO of Alibaba.

He’s also expressed interest in returning to education, where he had his beginning; coming full circle for the man whom many in China respectfully refer to as “Teacher Ma.”

Yan Liang on Jack Ma stepping down as CEO from Alibaba

CGTN’s Elaine Reyes speaks to Yan Liang, associate professor of economics at Willamette University, on Jack Ma stepping down as CEO from Alibaba.