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September 11, 2019

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New corporate governance at Alibaba as Jack Ma steps down

“THE green mountain won’t change, the flowing water is endless. See you around!,” Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma told a gala marking the company’s 20th anniversary and officially stepping down as the board chairman. He also turned 55 yesterday.

“Today marks not my retirement, but the beginning of a new corporate governance scheme for Alibaba and next stage of the company’s development,” he said.

The Hangzhou native, a former English teacher, said he had been preparing for this moment for 10 years, and he called on businesses to truly embrace sustainable development, inclusiveness and altruism, the three biggest factors for a successful business.

Instead of becoming a family business, or seeking a professional executive management team, he worked to bring the company’s core values into its everyday operations and sought out team leaders that believed in the company’s core mission.

“We’ll be facing the biggest challenges in the next 30 years with new technological advances, artificial intelligence and we must remain optimistic and actively embrace the changes,” he said.

Ma also said that the greatest chance for China to develop its economy was to boost domestic consumption and further embrace the market economy.

“I’ve been even busier after I stopped acting as CEO six years ago, and the founding of Alibaba is just one of my many dreams,” he said. “I’m still very young, and there are many places I want to visit and many more things to do, among them, of course, environmental protection and social service.”

Ma announced a year ago he would be passing the torch to chief executive officer Daniel Zhang on Teachers’ Day, a transition that signifies the company has stepped up to the next level of corporate governance.

The e-commerce giant celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Hangzhou Olympics Sports Expo Center yesterday with 60,000 people attending, mostly employees who won their tickets through lucky draws.

After stepping down as chief executive officer in 2013, Ma remained a pivotal figure, a popular speaker at many public occasions at home and abroad.

Alibaba Group reiterated its core mission yesterday “to make it easy to do business anywhere” and said it plans to see these tasks carried out by employees and executives through structural and management efforts.

The company aims to serve 2 billion consumers, create 100 million jobs and help 10 million small- and medium-enterprises become profitable by 2036.

The mission, which was first put forward in 2001, to help businesses whether online and offline, continues to unite staff and partners from all industry sectors.

Alibaba, which first started as a business-to-business marketplace site in an Hangzhou apartment to help merchants sell their products overseas, has grown to include online retailing, logistics, payment services, digital entertainment and cloud computing, coinciding with the unlocking of massive domestic consumption power.

In 2014, the company invited merchants, service staff and customers to ring the bell on its initial public offering the New York Stock Exchange instead of executives or investors.

Ma will remain a lifetime partner in the Alibaba Partnership. He intends to devote more time to educational causes and charity.

“Alibaba’s management structure and professional executives have evolved over the years and its business operation no longer relies on the few founders to drive business growth in the future,” said Founder Cao Lei at private consultancy firm China E-commerce Research Center.


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