Jack Ma, co-founder and executive chair of Chinese e-commerce and digital payments giant Alibaba, plans to step down next year to pursue his philanthropic interests, the New York Times reports.
Ma, a former English teacher who started Alibaba in 1999 with seventeen others — including some of his students — today is China's richest individual, with a net worth of more than $40 billion. The 54-year-old, who stepped down as CEO of the company in 2013, will remain on Alibaba's board of directors and continue to mentor the company's management. Even as the Alibaba empire — which encompasses e-commerce, online banking, cloud computing, digital media, and entertainment — flourished, Ma made it clear that one day he would retire and go back to teaching.
In 2014, he created the Jack Ma Foundation, which has worked to improve education in rural China. Most recently, the foundation launched the Africa Netpreneur Prize, which will award a total of $10 million to a hundred entrepreneurs on the continent over the next decade. Ma also is a co-founder of the Breakthrough Prize.
In an interview, he told the Times that his retirement is not the end of an era but rather "the beginning" and that he would be spending more of his time and fortune focused on education. In a Bloomberg interview, Ma cited Bill Gates as an inspiration in his decision to retire early and focus on philanthropy. "There's a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates. I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier," said Ma. "I think some day, and soon, I'll go back to teaching....I was not considered a good student but I improved, we keep on learning all the time. So I want to devote most of my time to this."
(Photo credit: Alibaba Group)