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Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma will step down next year

The billionaire and chairman of the Chinese e-commerce giant will eventually hand over the company reins to CEO Daniel Zhang.

Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma

Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma

Getty Images

One of China's biggest tech titans will be stepping down a year from now.

Alibaba co-founder and executive chairman Jack Ma, 53, announced Friday that he's retiring from the e-commerce giant, according to The New York Times. He said he's leaving to pursue philanthropic endeavors focused on education.

On Saturday, The South China Morning Post reported that Ma would unveil a succession plan, and in a press release on Sunday, Alibaba confirmed that Ma would continue as chairman of the company for 12 months, until Sept. 10, 2019, before handing the chairmanship over to CEO Daniel Zhang. This is in order to "ensure a smooth transition."

Ma will also remain on Alibaba's board of directors until 2020.

Ma co-founded Alibaba with 17 other people in 1999. He helped build it into a $420 billion company with more than 500 million Chinese customers who use the site to purchase everything from clothes to cement. Alibaba now also handles digital payments, online banking, cloud computing and digital media and entertainment.

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Over the course of his tenure at Alibaba, Ma became China's richest man, earning a net worth of more than $40 billion.

Included in the press release was a letter from Ma to Alibaba customers and shareholders, in which he wrote he, "put a lot of thought and preparation into this succession plan for ten years.

"As for myself, I still have lots of dreams to pursue. Those who know me know that I do not like to sit idle ... I also want to return to education, which excites me with so much blessing because this is what I love to do. The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things – because what if new dreams can be realized?!"

Alibaba didn't respond to a request for comment.

First published Sept. 8, 4:35 p.m. PT
Update, Sept. 9 at 8:33 a.m. PT: Added mention of the South China Morning Post's report.
Update, Sept. 9 at 10:12 p.m PT.: Added details from Alibaba's press release.