Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba announced Monday that chief executive Daniel Zhang will succeed Jack Ma as chairman of the board next September, confirming the celebrity billionaire's plans to gradually depart the business he founded in 1999.
Mr Ma is staying on as executive chairman for 12 months to "ensure a smooth transition" before handing over his role to chief executive officer Daniel Zhang, Alibaba said in a statement.
He will also continue as a member of Alibaba Group's board of directors until annual general meeting of shareholders in 2020. "But for a company of Alibaba's size, it's a process that will take 10 years to complete", he said.
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The report of his retirement came as a surprise, especially in the Chinese government circles as the NYT report said Mr. Ma was relinquishing as China's business environment had soured, with the government and state-owned enterprises increasingly playing more interventionist roles with companies.
Ma said he will continue to be a member of the Alibaba Partnership and focus his new free time on philanthropy. He is known as a key architect of Alibaba's "Singles Day", the Nov 11 event that has becomes the world's largest online shopping event.
Last year Ma invested 300 million yuan ($45m) in a rural education project in China.
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"I still have lots of dreams to pursue", the former teacher said in his statement. He has also established a scholarship program in Newcastle, Australia.
Mr Ma gave up the title of Alibaba CEO in 2013 but remains a pivotal figure within the company as well as its most recognisable face. "Those who know me know that I do not like to sit idle", he said.
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