BEIJING (AP) — One of the world's most successful Internet entrepreneurs, Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, announced Tuesday he is stepping down as chief executive but will remain chairman.
In a letter to employees, Ma said he would no longer be CEO after May 10 but will remain active as executive chairman. He said a successor will be named by May but gave no indication who it will be.
Alibaba Group's business-to-business Alibaba and consumer-oriented Taobao and Tmall platforms are among the world's busiest e-commerce outlets. The group manages Yahoo Inc.'s China arm.
Ma, a former English teacher, founded Alibaba in 1999 to link Chinese suppliers with retailers abroad. The Hurun Report, which follows China's wealthy, estimated his net worth last year at $2.4 billion.
Ma said that at 48, he is no longer young by Internet industry standards and Alibaba needs to promote younger leaders. He said Alibaba executives who were born in the 1960s would start to hand over responsibility to younger managers this year.
"It's not because I want to take things easy," he wrote. "It's because I see that Alibaba's young people have better, more brilliant, dreams than mine, and they are more capable of building a future that belongs to them."
The move comes a week after Alibaba announced it was reorganizing its seven business units into 25 smaller divisions meant to compete more effectively in China's turbulent Internet market. Ma said that would be the hardest "cultural transformation" in company history.
Ma is part of a generation of Chinese Internet entrepreneurs who built successful businesses in e-commerce, entertainment, search and other fields. In addition to Ma, several others have become billionaires, including Robin Li of search giant Baidu and Ma Huateng of Tencent, an entertainment and Web portal company.