Jack Ma, the exuberant boss of Alibaba, bows out

SHANGHAI – The charismatic Jack Ma turns Tuesday on his adventure at the head of Alibaba, the company he founded in 1999, revolutionizing online commerce in China and deeply marking the country’s economy.
Theformer English teacher, who is also celebrating his 55th birthday on Tuesday, will pass the torch to a team of respected leaders, including Daniel Zhang, the group ‘s discreet number two.

Jack Ma, one of the richest personalities in China with a fortune estimated at 41 billion US dollars, has expressed his desire to focus on philanthropic projects such as education.

His departure marks the beginning of a new era for a company that surfed very early on the dazzling development of the internet in China and believed in the rise of domestic consumption of the country to become a champion of online commerce.

The businessman, who has claimed a certain resemblance to ET, is also known for his eccentricities. In 2017, he had staged Michael Jackson to sketch a choreography imitating the singer at a gala, cutting with the impassive image of many Chinese business leaders.

“His experience as an English teacher, combined with his charisma and sense of humor, has made him the iconic figure of Chinese entrepreneurs abroad,” said Duncan Clark, author of the book “Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built. ”

“His influence as a symbol of Chinese entrepreneurship is unmatched,” he says.

A cash-strapped entrepreneur, Jack Ma discovers the internet during a trip to the United States in the 1990s. After several projects in China that have mixed success, he convinced a group of friends to lend him $ 60,000 for start an online trading business. The Alibaba adventure can start in 1999.

Today, the company – listed in the United States – weighs 462 billion dollars, according to the Bloomberg financial agency.

From “tractor” to “Boeing”

Jack Ma, who is expected to retain some advisory roles, made few comments about the transition, except that he will hand over the reins of Alibaba to Daniel Zhang, general manager since 2015.

Far from the exuberance of Jack Ma, Daniel Zhang, ace of the audit and renowned for its rigor, is stingy with appearances in public.

However, behind the scenes he is credited with exceptional results: the Chinese media credits him for having transformed Jack Ma’s laborious “tractor” into a powerful “Boeing 747” of e-commerce, via an ambitious strategy applied meticulously.

“You have to stay awake every minute, you have to keep your eyes open during your sleep,” he explained last year.

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