Alibaba co-founder and CEO Jack Ma said he planned to resign from the Chinese e-commerce giant on Monday to pursue philanthropy in education, a change of guard for the Internet company of $ 420 billion.
A former English teacher, Ma started Alibaba in 1999 and turned it into one of the world's leading e-commerce and digital payments companies, transforming the way Chinese people buy and pay for things.
That fed his net worth to more than $ 40 billion, making him the richest man in China.
He is revered by many Chinese, some of whom have put their portrait in their homes to worship in the same way that they worship the God of Wealth.
Ma retires because China's business environment has deteriorated, and state and Beijing companies increasingly have more interventionist roles with companies.
Under President Xi Jinping, China's Internet industry has grown and become more important, prompting the government to tighten the leash.
In an interview, Ma said his retirement is not the end of an era but "the beginning of an era."
He said he would spend more time and fortune focusing on education. "I love education," he said.
Ma will remain on Alibaba's board of directors and will continue as a mentor to the company's management.
Ma turns 54 on Monday, which is also a holiday in China known as Teacher's Day.
For Alibaba, Ma's retirement completes a transition of power to other executives.
Ma resigned as executive director of Alibaba in 2013; The current executive director of the company is Daniel Zhang, who is a candidate to succeed Ma.
However, Ma had remained active as the face of the e-commerce company, as well as the architect of its long-term strategy.
It has a 6.4 percent share of Alibaba, according to the securities declarations.
Ma, a natural salesman and charismatic leader, co-founded Alibaba with 17 other people, some of them students, in his apartment in Hangzhou, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, in 1999.
Today, the Alibaba empire encompasses e-commerce, online banking, cloud computing, digital media and entertainment, and even a corporate messaging service similar to Slack.
The company owns or holds stakes in some of China's most important media assets, including the Weibo social media site and the English-language newspaper The South China Morning Post, based in Hong Kong.