SINGAPORE (Sept 10): Jack Ma today announced his plans to step down as the Chinese e-commerce giant’s board chairman, one year from today on Sept 10, 2019.

In an open letter issued by Ma today to Alibaba’s customers, employees and shareholders, Ma named the company’s CEO Daniel Zhang, who has been with Alibaba for 11 years, as his intended successor.

As part of the handover, Ma says he will continue as an executive chairman of the company over the next twelve months from the effective date to ensure a smooth transition of chairmanship.

He will also complete his current term as a member of Alibaba’s board of directors until its annual general meeting (AGM) of shareholders in 2020.

“I have put a lot of thought and preparation into this succession plan for ten years,” writes Ma, a co-founder of Alibaba who is also a lifetime partner in the Alibaba Partnership, which has the right to nominate a majority of the group’s directors to the board of the company.

“This transition demonstrates that Alibaba has stepped up to the next level of corporate governance from a company that relies on individuals, to one built on systems of organisational excellence and a culture of talent development,” he adds.

Going forward, Ma says he has “lots of dreams to pursue”, including that of returning to education.

“Teachers always want their students to exceed them, so the responsible thing to do for me and the company to do is to let younger, more talented people take over in leadership roles so that they inherit our mission ‘to make it easy to do business anywhere.’ Carrying out this mission in order to help small businesses, young people and women around the world is my passion,” he states.

“This is not only our intent from day one but I feel blessed to have this opportunity. To realize the dream behind this mission requires participation by a lot more people than just Jack Ma and persistent effort by generations of Aliren,” says Ma, referring to the employees of Alibaba.

“Those who know me know that I do not like to sit idle. I plan on continuing my role as the founding partner in the Alibaba Partnership and contribute to the work of the partnership... The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”  

Shares in Alibaba Group Holding closed 3.77% lower on Friday at US$158.60 on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).