Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba. Photo: World Economic Forum
Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba. Photo: World Economic Forum

Jack Ma Yun, founder of the giant Alibaba Group, claims not to be having too much trouble leaving behind the chairman’s seat.

The flamboyant business chief, speaking for the last time as executive chairman, told investors in Hangzhou on Tuesday more details about his plan to retire next year.

He said he felt the time was right to step down after he had been outside China for 60 days this summer without receiving any calls from the company.

Ma flew over 1,000 hours this year, at times deliberately staying away from his office so that his management team would be free to make their own decisions.

He instructed chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong, his appointed successor and Executive Chairman-designate, to make decisions without consulting him on matters involving up to 20 billion yuan (US$2.92 billion).

Ma told the investors that the idea of retiring came to him years ago. Yesterday he said that in 2005, one investor suggested that he should retire because a founder must leave his company to let his staff step forward to do their jobs. The same investor also said Ma should leave because of his crazy behavior.

At the time, Ma replied, “I agree, but not now”. But he says he took heed of the advice and started planning.

In a talk show appearance with Charlie Rose of Bloomberg, Ma said, “The thing is, I don’t want to die in my office. I want to die on the beach.”

Yesterday Ma also refuted the idea that he was being pushed out by Beijing, or by anyone else.

“Impossible, “ said Ma. “No one can push me over.”

The message is that Jack Ma will go when he is ready. Almost certainly in time for his birthday in September 2018.

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