Now it's time to enjoy life, says Jack Ma

Updated: 2013-05-11 02:01

By SHEN JINGTING in Hangzhou (China Daily)

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Chinese Internet guru Ma Yun has a new career.

That is, to enjoy life, the 48-year-old, also known as Jack Ma, said on Friday as he officially stepped down as chief executive officer of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

From Saturday, Alibaba Chief Data Officer Jonathan Lu becomes the new chief executive. Ma remains chairman of Alibaba Group.

Now it's time to enjoy life, says Jack Ma

Former Alibaba CEO Ma Yun (looking left) hugs his successor Lu Zhaoxi, also known as Jonathan Lu, in Hangzhou on Friday. Dong Xuming / For China Daily

The move marks the first CEO handover among China's major Internet companies.

On a rainy night on Friday, and facing an audience of 35,000 at a Hangzhou sports stadium, Ma delivered his farewell speech.

"I have been expecting this day for years. I am proud of what I have done over the past 14 years of business. There are no regrets in my life," he said, adding that he will never return as Alibaba's CEO, as it is the younger generation's turn to shoulder responsibility.

"From tomorrow (Saturday), my career is to enjoy life. I will do things I am interested in, like education and environmental protection."

He called for action to realize a society with clean water, blue skies and safe food.

Ma: Alibaba eyes areas beyond e-commerce

Chinese-language media said Ma is going to become China director of The Nature Conservancy, a Washington-headquartered NGO with global assets of $3.7 billion and which entered China in 1998. It aims to solve environmental problems.

Friday marked the 10th birthday of Alibaba's consumer-to-consumer business website Taobao. Alibaba also operates another two e-commerce sites — and the business-to-consumer platform Tmall.

Before Ma's departure, Alibaba delivered a rosy financial report, overtaking Tencent Holdings Ltd to become the most profitable Internet company in China in the fourth quarter of last year.

Alibaba's net profit nearly tripled, to $642.2 million, during the period, supported by an 80 percent rise in revenue, according to the latest regulatory filing by shareholder Yahoo Inc.

Tencent reported net profit of $552.2 million in the fourth quarter, up 36 percent from a year earlier.

Xie Wen, an IT expert and former president of Yahoo China, which is a part of Alibaba, said, "Tencent conducts businesses in multiple areas, while Alibaba has so far only demonstrated specialties in e-commerce."

Hong Bo, a Beijing-based analyst and founder of IT consultancy company IT5G, said, "Big Internet companies are always looking for possible revenue sources, or to launch mergers and acquisitions to beef up product lines directly. Alibaba is the one that does both."

In previous interviews, Ma reiterated Alibaba's ambition to tap into finance and data business, in addition to e-commerce.

It said in March it plans to set up Alibaba Small and Micro Financial Services Group to consolidate its online payment and micro-loan businesses. It will provide financial services for consumers and small and micro-enterprises — those with an annual turnover of less than 30 million yuan ($4.8 million).

Qiu Lin, a stock analyst with Guosen Securities Co in Hong Kong, said Alibaba might have a much bigger scope for growth after entering the financial services industry.

"The net profit of China's Internet companies was roughly 100 billion yuan last year, while that of major listed Chinese banks was about 1 trillion yuan," Qiu said.

Based on hundreds of millions of users, Alibaba produces a huge volume of data on its platforms. Che Pingjue, chairman of Alibaba's internal data committee, said during a conference in Hangzhou in April, "Alibaba is born to be a big-data company".