Jack Ma, who is one of the technology heavyweights of all time is stepping down after a prolific career as founder and Chairman of the Alibaba Group. He is known to have been steered Alibaba from idea to startup to Global Technology giant.

Prolific Billionaire Jack Ma has stepped down as Chairman of Alibaba. After twenty years which has seen one of the biggest technology giants come from zero to hero, Ma has been one of the defining icons of the technology industry since the early days when no one thought that technology would be either this big or go this far in defining the human existence.

He would remain on the board until the next Shareholders Annual General Meeting when it is expected that he will step down from the board of directors. He will remain as part of the Alibaba Partnership which is a group comprising mostly of the 18 founders and senior management of the Alibaba group.

An Extraordinary Journey for Jack

Ma founded Alibaba based on the premise that people should have access to items at the best prices possible. Himself and 18 others who are the founders of the company formed the startup in Jack’s apartment in 1999. 

In January 2000, Softbank and a few others stepped in to provide $20 million in investments to the startup. In 2003, Taobao which is a shopping platform for the Chinese market came on stream. This new venture was so successful to the point that revenues from Taobao reached 1.59 trillion yuan ($223.9 billion) in 2015 alone. This has since grown to 3.11 trillion yuan in 2019 which is almost double of the 2015 figures.

Alipay which is only rivaled by Wechat as a payment system in China was launched in 2004. Alipay, its licensing and corporate structure among other things has been one of the sore issues in Jack’s career.

In 2005, Yahoo Inc. (YAHOY) acquired 40% of Alibaba’s equity making it become the largest shareholder at the time. Yahoo’s investment evaluated at $1 billion cash at the time enabled the Group to further expand its business model. In exchange, the Alibaba group took over Yahoo’s interests in China.

Following rapid investments and expansion of the group, the Alibaba group had its first Initial Public Offering on the Hong Kong Stock exchange in 2007 at an initial share price of $13.59 Hong Kong Dollars. The Group delisted from the exchange in 2012.

In 2008, Tmall which was derived from Taobao was launched and has since grown to be one of the biggest profit centers for the group. In 2009, Alibaba Group launched its cloud business which has also created a large pool of profit for the company.

Due to several regulations introduced by the Central Bank of China in terms of licensing, Alibaba sold control of Alipay to a third party controlled by Jack. Yahoo denied knowledge of this transaction and it caused quite a few rifts among all parties involved.

In 2012, the Group bought back 50% of Yahoo’s stake. This gave Yahoo about $6.3 billion in cash and $800 preferential shares. 

In 2014, the Group on the New York Stock Exchange issued its stock for public purchase. In what has been described by many as the largest public offering in the world’s history to date. The Alibaba Group was able to raise a little over $25 billion. Today, the group is easily one of the largest corporate entities in Asia and the world.

Due to the various issues that Alipay’s restructuring that caused dissatisfaction and concerns by the various shareholders of the Group, Ant financial was created as a spinoff to operate Alipay’s business. Ant financial is estimated to have a $150 Billion value. Alibaba bought a 33% stake in Ant financial in 2018.

After Jack Who Next?

Current Soft-Spoken CEO Daniel Zhang is taking over as both Chairman and CEO. Having been Alibaba’s CEO since 2015, Daniel is holding the fort at a time when the World economy is topsy-turvy and everyone is wondering when this is the beginning of the end for the rise of technology companies.

One thing is certain though: As long as there are individuals like Jack Ma, who can take an idea and turn it into a living reality which can be seen and felt by all, technology will always have a place in our day-to-day lives.

Unicorns like Jack Ma are rare. Way to go Jack!

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