Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma announced today that he will step down as CEO on May 10. He will remain a full-time executive chairman and focus his attention on setting strategic direction, developing managerial talent, and strengthening Alibaba's social-responsibility efforts.
On May 10, Alibaba will also name a new CEO. Ma hinted that the successor will come from within the company. The announcement will also come on the 10th anniversary of Alibaba's Taobao, a consumer-to-consumer platform like eBay and the company's main growth driver over the past several years.
Ma's retirement decision comes with little surprise. In a September speech, Ma joked about growing old and being unsuited as a traditional CEO of a big company. Today he echoed those comments, saying, "At 48 I am no longer 'young' for the Internet business." He added that it's time to make room for "the next generation of Alibaba people (who) are better equipped to manage and lead an Internet ecosystem like ours."
Founded in 1999, Alibaba is China's e-commerce giant, rivaling competitors such as Amazon.com and eBay. In the 14 years under Ma, Alibaba has grown into the world's largest private tech company, with 24,000 employees and an estimated valuation of $40 billion.