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Alibaba Founder Jack Ma Resigns as Company Chief

Founder of Alibaba group Jack Ma arrives for the Tech for Good summit, May 15, 2019 in Paris.
Founder of Alibaba group Jack Ma arrives for the Tech for Good summit, May 15, 2019 in Paris.
Alibaba Founder Jack Ma Resigns as Company Chief
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Jack Ma has resigned as chairman of Alibaba Group, the world's biggest e-commerce business.

Ma is one of China's wealthiest and best-known business leaders. He stepped down as Alibaba’s chief on his 55th birthday. The move was part of a process announced a year ago.

He will stay on as a member of the Alibaba Partnership, a 36-member group.

Ma, a former English teacher, founded Alibaba in 1999 to connect Chinese exporters to retail businesses in North America.

China's growing consumer market is now central to Alibaba’s business. The company has expanded into online banking, entertainment and cloud computing. Chinese businesses were responsible for 66 percent of its $16.7 billion in earnings from March through June of this year.

Slowing sales

Chinese retailing is facing increased risks during the current trade war between China and the United States. The war has raised the cost of U.S. imports in China.

Growth in online sales slowed to 17.8 percent in the first half of 2019 as the country’s economic growth slowed. The 2018 growth rate was 23.9 percent.

The total amount of goods sold throughout Alibaba's e-commerce businesses rose 25 percent last year to $853 billion. By comparison, the biggest U.S. e-commerce company, Inc., reported total sales of $277 billion.

Joe Tsai is Alibaba's deputy chairman. Tsai told reporters in May the company is "on the right side" of issues in U.S.-Chinese trade talks. He added that Alibaba stands to improve with Beijing's promise to increase imports and a growing consumer market.

Growth of online sales

Alibaba was established at a time when few Chinese were active online. As internet use spread, the company expanded into consumer-centered retailing and services. Few Chinese used credit cards, so Alibaba created the Alipay online payments system.

The Hurun Report, which reports on wealth in China, estimates Ma's financial worth as $38 billion.

In 2015, the businessman bought The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's biggest English-language newspaper.

Alibaba’s new chairman is Daniel Zhang, who has been with the company for 12 years.

Alibaba's e-commerce business includes business-to-business It links foreign buyers with Chinese suppliers of goods from home goods to medical technology. Another Alibaba business is Tmall, with online stores for popular products.

In 2014, Alipay became a financial company, called Ant Financial. Alibaba also operates a film studio and invested in planning and transport services.

Ma faced questions in 2011 when Alibaba gave control of Alipay to a company he controlled without immediately informing shareholders. Alibaba said the move was necessary to obey Chinese law. However, some financial experts said the company was paid too little for a valuable property. Alibaba and shareholders Yahoo and Japan’s Softbank later settled the dispute.

Business experts have questioned the Alibaba Partnership, which gives Ma and a group of company officials more control over the business than shareholders.

Ma has argued that such a system helps Alibaba to center on long-term development instead of reacting to pressure from financial markets.

I’m Susan Shand.

VOA’s Dora Mekouar reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

e-commerce --n. business carried out over the internet

retail --n. the business of selling products directly to customers for their own use

consumer --n. someone who buys products for their own use and not for business

studio --n. a business that makes movies

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