This former English teacher, who turns 55 on Tuesday, will pass over to a team of respected leaders, including Daniel Zhang, CEO since 2015.
Jack Ma, one of the richest men in China, with an estimated fortune of $ 41 billion, wants to devote himself to philanthropic projects, including education.
His departure marks the beginning of a new era for a company that was able to take advantage of the Internet hatching in China and opted for the growth of domestic consumption, in a country that is now the leader of internet commerce.
The entrepreneur, who himself recognizes a certain physical resemblance to E.T. (the famous alien from the Spielberg film), is also known for its eccentricities. In 2017, he dressed up as Michael Jackson at a gala, an image far removed from the impassibility of many Chinese leaders.
“His experience as an English teacher, along with his charisma and his sense of humor, have made him the emblematic figure of Chinese entrepreneurs abroad,” says Duncan Clark, author of the book “Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built "
"Its influence as a symbol of Chinese entrepreneurship is unmatched," he says.
Jack Ma discovered the internet on a trip to the United States in the 1990s, when he was an entrepreneur without resources.
After several projects in China, without great success, he convinced a group of friends to lend him $ 60,000 to launch an online trading company, Alibaba, in 1999.
The company, which is listed in the United States, has a value of 462,000 million dollars, according to the Bloomberg financial agency.
Jack Ma, who could retain some advisory functions in the company, did not comment on his retirement.
His successor, Daniel Zhang, is known for his rigor and rarely appears in public. However, the Chinese press says that it was he who turned Jack Ma's "tractor" into a powerful "Boeing 747" of internet commerce.
"You have to be awake every minute, you have to have your eyes open during sleep," Daniel Zhang had said last year.