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Why Jack Ma thinks he's too old at 48

By Ding Yining   (Shanghai Daily)

08:50, January 21, 2013

Jack Ma, the charismatic founder of China Internet giant Alibaba, is expected to continue as visionary "elder" of the company after stepping down as chief executive officer.

Ma, who ranked 11th in Forbes magazine's China's rich list last year with reported assets of US$3.4 billion, announced last week that he will relinquish day-to-day control of Alibaba in favor of younger executives but remain as chairman.

"I'll pass leadership to more people who were born in the 1970s and the 80s, who have a better understanding about the future," Ma said in an open letter to employees. "I'm no longer 'young,' and the next generation of leaders is better equipped to build and operate a healthy Internet ecosystem."

It's perhaps a telltale sign of the nature of the industry that a man of 48 should relegate himself to the "older" generation. It's also a sign of how Alibaba is trying to restructure itself in a rapidly changing digital landscape.

Cloud computing

Ma founded Alibaba in Hangzhou 14 years ago. The company now operates the world's biggest business-to-business online trading platform for small businesses, a search engine, cloud computing and online retail and payment services, an online advertising system and a growing number of mobile phone applications.

Alibaba, excluding revenue from online payment unit Alipay, had revenues of US$1.1 billion and profit of US$293 million in the second quarter last year, according to filings of Yahoo Inc, which owns about 24 percent of its stakes.

Last year, combined transactions on its retail platform and nearly doubled to exceed 1 trillion yuan.

Less than one week ago, the company was broken up into 25 units headed by nine executives. The decentralization was aimed at providing greater flexibility and improved efficiency in each unit.

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