Jack Ma to unveil succession plans, not imminent retirement: SCMP

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BEIJING, Sept 9, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Alibaba co-founder and chairman Jack Ma
will unveil a succession plan on Monday, the South China Morning Post
reported Sunday, with a company spokesman denying a New York Times report
that he would retire that day.

The SCMP, which is owned by Alibaba, said China’s most famous tech
billionaire will “unveil a succession strategy” on Monday — his 54th
birthday — but remain the company’s executive chairman for the foreseeable
future.

The New York Times ran an article on Friday, based on an interview with
Ma, saying the former teacher turned billionaire planned to use his birthday
to announce his retirement as chairman of Alibaba to focus on philanthropy.

The paper quoted Ma as saying the decision was “the beginning of an era”.

But an Alibaba spokesman told the SCMP that the New York Times’ story “was
taken out of context, and factually wrong”.

“An Alibaba spokesman said Ma remains the company’s executive chairman and
will provide transition plans over a significant period of time,” the SCMP
wrote.

The paper added that the Monday succession strategy was part of a plan
“for grooming a generation of younger executives to take over the reins” of
the company.

Eileen Murphy, a spokesperson for the New York Times, said the newspaper
stood by its story.

Ma was an English teacher before starting Alibaba in 1999 and built it
into a multibillion-dollar internet colossus, becoming one of the world’s
richest men and a revered figure in his homeland.

His own worth has soared along with that of the company, which has added
cloud computing, films and e-payments to its growing portfolio and was valued
at $420.8 billion when the stock market closed on Friday.

The New York Times’ report surprised many in the global business community
because of Ma’s comparative youth, especially in China where it is not
unusual for tycoons to remain in place into their eighties.

Alibaba did not return requests for comment on Saturday after the story
ran.

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.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV released on Friday, Ma hinted at his
retirement plans, saying he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Microsoft
founder Bill Gates, one of the world’s most prolific philanthropists.

“There’s a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates. I can never be as
rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier,” he said.

The SCMP report ran quotes from Ma himself, but they did not address when
exactly he would retire. Ma said he met with company executives 10 years ago
to work out “what Alibaba would do without me”.

“Anybody who knows me knows I embrace the future. This is not about
retiring, stepping away, or backing off. This is a systematic plan,” the
paper quoted Ma as saying.

The SCMP said Ma would be in Russia next week for Alibaba business
meetings as well as an upcoming trip to South Africa and a planned speech at
the company’s investor day in mid-September.

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