Alibaba founder and CEO has confirmed that, after building up China’s biggest e-commerce venture since 1999, he will step down from his role as CEO this year, just as recent rumors suggested. In an email to employees today, Ma, a former English teacher in his native Hangzhou, eastern China, said he was “no longer young enough” for this role in the internet business, despite being just 48. He wrote:
As a founder CEO, stepping down as CEO is a difficult decision, for this could be confounding especially for someone of my age who should be at the height of his career.
Ma will remain as chairman of Alibaba Group, but will formally step down from the CEO post on May 10th. A successor in this role, one of the biggest on the Chinese web, has yet to be named. His email conceded that he had “looked forward to writing this letter for a long time, and this moment has finally arrived.” The billionaire entrepreneur added that he wanted to make space for “the next generation of Alibaba people who are better equipped to manage and lead an internet ecosystem like ours.” He continued:
I believe that doing what makes oneself happy, staying within one’s own limits and being a good partner to one’s more capable colleagues, is the right thing for me to do.
Alibaba is now the world’s most valuable private tech company, and was recently rumored to be gearing up for a massive IPO in mid-2013. A changeover at the top makes this somewhat less likely to happen so soon.
Ma’s company powered the e-commerce revolution in China, which really started gaining momentum in 2004 when its C2C online mall Taobao turned China into a nation of amateur shopkeepers. And it famously defeated eBay in the country. Aside from that site, it also runs Tmall, Alibaba.com for global sourcing, its Alipay e-payment platform, a smartphone OS, and a lot more.
The financing it raised for the partial Yahoo ownership buyback last September effectively valued the whole Alibaba Group at $40 billion.