How a visit to Australia helped Jack Ma become an internet tycoon

Muriel Colon
September 8, 2018

Alibaba co-founder and China's richest man, Jack Ma, has announced he will retire to focus on philanthropy on Friday, the New York Times reports. The Hangzhou-based company, which began as an e-commerce marketplace founded with US$60,000, has taken less than two decades to expand into a US$420 billion juggernaut in online shopping, cashless payments, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and even Hollywood movies.

"I love education", the Chinese billionaire said, adding that he would be spending more of his time and fortune focused on education.

"There are a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates".

Ma's Bloomberg interview came as shares of China's second-largest e-commerce company, JD.com, plummeted as its CEO Li Qiangdong was arrested in the United States over an accusation of rape. Alibaba has more than 86,000 employees on staff.

The Times said that in an interview, Ma said he planned to step down as executive chairman on Monday to pursue philanthropy in education.


Ma, a former English teacher, co-founded Alibaba in 1999. One of those is entertainment, through its Alibaba Pictures arm, which owns a stake in Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, and through its hugely popular movie-ticket sales app, Tao Piao Piao. Morley brought young Ma to Australia in 1985 for his first overseas trip, when he spent almost a month in Newcastle, an experience which the Chinese businessman said had "totally changed my future". But Ma on Thursday told Bloomberg TV that he was mulling an early retirement similar to Bill Gates' early exit from Microsoft.

Alibaba didn't immediately respond to a request for confirmation. Ma stepped down as Alibaba's chief executive in 2013; the company's current chief executive is Daniel Zhang, who is a candidate to succeed Ma.

Ma is the first of his generation of superwealthy tech CEOs to retire, an unusual move in a country where successful business leaders often run their empires well into their 80s - Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing only retired in May at the age of 89.

FILE PHOTO: Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma gestures as he attends the 11th World Trade Organization's ministerial conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina December 11, 2017.

Earlier this year regulators shot down a $1.2-billion bid for money transfer service Moneygram International Inc by Ant Financial on national security grounds, which the company said was related to "geopolitical" changes.

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