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One of World's Richest Men Gives Self Unique Birthday Gift

Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, steps down on his 55th birthday
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2019 9:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – Jack Ma turns 55 on Tuesday, and China's richest man is celebrating with a milestone move: He's stepping down as executive chairman of the country's e-commerce behemoth Alibaba. He's doing so "after presiding over one of the most spectacular creations of wealth the world has ever seen," writes Venus Feng at Bloomberg. As befitting his big personality, Ma is going out in style with a party at a sports stadium in Hangzhou that holds 80,000 people. Related coverage:

  • Humble start: Ma is a former English teacher who founded Alibaba with 17 others in 1999. Initially, they worked out of Ma's apartment, per CNBC. The original idea was to sell Chinese goods abroad, but when China's economy took off, Alibaba did as well by selling goods domestically, reports Business Insider.

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  • Today: Ma himself is worth $41.8 billion, which ranks him 20th in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The company has expanded in myriad ways and now has a market capitalization of $460 billion, reports Reuters. It employs more than 100,000 people.
  • Now what? Ma will focus on education-themed philanthropy, reports the Nikkei Asian Review, but CNN notes that he isn't cutting ties with Alibaba. He aims to be a mentor for managers. "Teachers always want their students to exceed them, so the responsible thing ... for me and the company to do is to let younger, more talented people take over in leadership roles," he said last year. Tuesday is not only his birthday, it's Teachers' Day in China, and Ma has talked frequently about his love for his old profession.
  • KFC story: One famous Ma anecdote is that he was rejected by Kentucky Fried Chicken for a job early in his career, when the chain was just entering China. A few years ago, Alibaba became part owner of KFC in China, per the Wall Street Journal.
  • Controversy: Earlier this year, Ma took flak for advocating the "996" practice. That is, he suggested employees should be happy working 9am to 9pm six days a week, explains Forbes, which digs into the nuances of the controversy.
  • Different style: Ma's successor is Daniel Zhang, a straight-laced accountant by trade, per Reuters. The outlet sees him as a "stark contrast" to Ma, "whose flamboyant style and charismatic leadership made him the most recognized Chinese entrepreneur." CNBC has details on the business future of Alibaba. Cloud computing is expected to play a huge role.
(Read more Jack Ma stories.)

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