Jack Ma on Management: Why a 'Fool' Needs to Lead Smart People

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Then Ma will finish his run on the Alibaba Group's board of directors after its annual shareholder meeting in 2020.

The businessman described the move as a step up to the "next level of corporate governance", and transition from a company that fully relies on individuals to "one built on systems of organizational excellence and a culture of talent development".

Zhang, Ma's planned successor, is a former accountant who joined Alibaba in 2007 after working at Shanda Entertainment, an online games company.

Jack Ma, the longtime head of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, on Sunday announced that David Zhang will succeed him as chairman in one year's time.

According to Ma, a "sustainable Alibaba" would have to be built on "sound governance, culture-centric philosophy, and consistency in developing talent", adding that no company can rely exclusively on its founders.

A devotee of Chinese martial art form Tai Chi, Ma started Alibaba in 1999 from his modest apartment in Hangzhou, the capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, with 17 other people (remember that Jeff Bezos started Amazon from a garage in Seattle). "There's a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates". He is known as a key architect of Alibaba's "Singles Day", the Nov 11 event that has becomes the world's largest online shopping event.

The NYT report was quickly denied by Alibaba whose spokesman told the Post on Saturday that Mr. Ma remains the company's executive chairman and will provide transition plans over a significant period of time.

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"Zhang had earlier said that India is a "very important" market for Alibaba in its global strategy".

Last year, he made his acting debut with his first kung fu short film Gong Shou Dao, in which he sparred with martial arts master Jet Li.

Ma, who also controls Alibaba payment affiliate Ant Financial, is stepping back amid more challenging times for Chinese tech companies as sales growth in China's eastern mega-cities shows signs of slowing.

Since handing over the CEO role, Ma has concentrated on philanthropy and promoting Alibaba internationally at business and political events.

In 2014, he and co-founder Joe Tsai set up a charitable trust focusing on the environment and health, funded by share options they own that represented about 2 percent of Alibaba's equity at the time. He has also established a scholarship program in Newcastle, Australia.

The company, which is battling arch rival Tencent Holdings Ltd for pole position in the food delivery market, recently said it will merge units including Ele.me and Koubei and raise funds for the combined business.

Not just the private sector, Alibaba is also increasing its footprint in the government sector.

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