Jack Ma, China’s richest man and co-founder of Internet conglomerate Alibaba, is stepping down as executive chairman. In an interview with Bloomberg, Ma said that he is focusing on philanthropy with the establishment of a foundation in his own name.
The Alibaba chairman will follow in the footsteps of Bill Gates, who retired from Microsoft to spend more time on his foundation.
“There’s a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates. I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier,” Ma said. “I think some day, and soon, I’ll go back to teaching. This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba.”
The 54-year-old billionaire will remain on Alibaba’s board of directors and will continue to guide its management team. Ma, who has a net worth of $40 billion, co-founded the company in 1999 with $60,000 in capital from 17 other co-founders.
Since then, Alibaba has grown to become one of the largest Internet and tech companies in the world, with a market cap of $420 billion and $40 billion in annual revenue. Alibaba has wide-ranging interests in e-commerce, online payments, cloud computing, entertainment services and other industries.
Despite the retirement, the former English teacher will continue to be the face of Alibaba, just likes Gates is with Microsoft. Ma said that he has full confidence in the company’s management team and in the partnership structure that controls the company.
Last year, Ma visited the Philippines and met with President Rodrigo Duterte and local business leaders. The affable billionaire jokingly complained about the slow Internet speed in the country and talked about how to improve the local e-commerce scene.
Alibaba has interests in a number of companies operating in the Philippines. Alibaba bought a controlling stake in Lazada for $1 billion in 2016, and last year, its affiliate Ant Financial forged a partnership with Globe to form Mynt, a fintech startup.