Alibaba's Jack Ma to be succeeded by CEO Daniel Zhang next year

Jack Ma's Message to Alibaba Employees Have Right Balance Between System People Culture

He appointed Zhang CEO only in 2015, after which the Shanghai-educated certified account set in motion a plan to buy up and transform brick-and-mortar retailers: a so-called "New Retail" vision that's cost billions of dollars and taken Alibaba deep into the realm of physical stores.

"The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba", Ma concludes in his letter.

According to Ma, a "sustainable Alibaba" would have to be built on "sound governance, culture-centric philosophy, and consistency in developing talent", adding that no company can rely exclusively on its founders. Recently, Ma has been taking full advantage of his fame, belting out "Unchained Melody" at a Chinese music festival, doing his best Michael Jackson impression at Alibaba's birthday bash a year ago, and even starring in his own kung-fu flick alongside the likes of Jet Li and Donnie Yen.

The frenzy of online spending, which takes place on November 11, generates bigger sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

The opportunities are huge for the current $35 billion Indian e-commerce sector which would be worth over $100 billion by 2022 - with a growth of around 25 per cent from the current level - a joint PwC-Nasscom report said on Friday. Since his ascension, the Shanghai-educated executive has proven a capable operator, designing and pulling off mega-events such as the annual Singles' Day shopping bonanza.

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Zhang's promotion is likely to mean continuity in business, but it will bring a change in leadership style.

Last year, he made his acting debut with his first kung fu short film Gong Shou Dao, in which he sparred with martial arts master Jet Li.

"I've prepared a Jack Ma Foundation", he said.

Zhang has admitted as much himself.

"There isn't a face or name more recognizable globally that represents the rise of China's internet and its consumers than Jack Ma", said Tanner.

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Alibaba has been working toward this transition for a decade, as part of its lofty goal of being a company that can last for more than 100 years, Ma said.

At 46, the younger executive is still willing to experiment, though.

"This transition demonstrates that Alibaba has stepped up to the next level of corporate governance from a company that relies on individuals, to one built on systems of organizational excellence and a culture of talent development", Ma said in his letter. To realize the dream behind this mission requires participation by a lot more people than just Jack Ma and persistent effort by generations of Aliren.

Zhang arrived at Alibaba in 2007 as the finance chief of the company's Taobao Marketplace, which he helped develop into one of the group's top businesses. "He has understood Chinese consumer needs better than anyone and provided online services to meet them through convenience, entertainment and efficiencies".

His decision to quit the rapidly growing gaming industry followed an hour-long chat with Ma at Alibaba's headquarters in the eastern city of Hangzhou. "All these things that I've been preparing for 10 years", he said, who is now China's richest man. Every day is like as busy as a president, and I don't have any power!

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- Sherisse Pham contributed to this article.

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