Alibaba's Jack Ma, China's richest man, announces plans to retire

Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma to retire

China's richest man Jack Ma will retire on Monday

Alibaba's growth and Ma's wealth track changes in modern China, in which a burgeoning urban middle class has more money to spend while authorities allowed large accumulations of wealth, especially when connected to forward-thinking enterprises.

Ma stepped down as Alibaba's CEO in 2013 but retained a role as executive chairman and a stake in the company.

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 plans to remain on the board of directors of the Chinese e-commerce giant, which he co-founded in 1999 and which turned him into the richest man in China as of Friday.

Ma told the newspaper that his retirement "is not the end of an era but "the beginning of an era". Ma, whose Chinese name is Ma Yun, said he might start a foundation of his own, like Bill Gates. His birthday also coincides with a the Chinese holiday of Teacher's Day, which celebrates educators.

He now has a net worth of about $39 billion, Forbes estimated, making him the second-richest person in China and the 20th-richest in the world. Ma also controls Ant Financial, which was valued at about $150 billion after a recent fundraising round. He is a cult figure in China's internet industry and has attracted a large following among entrepreneurs and in pop culture alike.

Ma's decision also comes as USA police investigate an allegation of rape against Richard Liu, head of e-commerce rival Inc (JD.O), which has hammered its shares.

Liu was arrested and then released without charge in the US city of Minneapolis last week.

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"This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba", he told Bloomberg TV recently.

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, waves as he arrives at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, US, September 19, 2014.

Succession planning for a company barely out of its teens underscores its founders' commitment of handing down a corporate structure that can outlast them.

The move mirrors that of Bill Gates before he left Microsoft.

He is one of the most colorful of China's growing crop of billionaires, performing a Michael Jackson-inspired dance routine at the company's 18th anniversary celebration a year ago, and starring in his own kung fu short film.

Speaking at an event in Australia in 2017, Ma explained his view on philanthropy.

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