Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma announces plans to retire at 54

Screenshot via Bloomberg

Ma was quoted as telling the paper he would step down on September 10 to pursue philanthropy in education.

Ma, a former English teacher, co-founded Alibaba in 1999.

Alibaba transformed how the Chinese people shop and make purchases, and made Ma the richest man in the world's most populous country.

Alibaba group founder and CEO, Jack Ma.

Mr Ma told the New York Times that his decision to stand down was not the end of an era but "the beginning of an era" and that he "loved" education. He said the reason he's leaving is to pursue philanthropic endeavors focused on education. "I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier", he said.

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After being knocked back by U.S. venture capitalists in 1999, a cash-strapped Ma persuaded friends to give him $60,000 to start Alibaba, which operated out of an apartment in Hangzhou.

As Alibaba has flourished, Ma has talked many times about how he did not want to spend his whole life at the company, saying he would retire one day and go back to teaching. Firms including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JD.com have flourished in recent years, growing to almost rival American internet behemoths like Amazon and Google in their size, scope and ambition. His departure is a sign of confidence in current management as the business evolves by expanding beyond e-commerce to include digital payments, cloud computing and the production of big-budget movies.

Ma is retiring as China's business environment has soured, with Beijing and state-owned enterprises increasingly playing more interventionist roles with companies. According to Chinese media outlets, he belongs to a family which used to get just U.S. $ 40 each month to take care of its needs.Yet, Ma managed to graduate from Hangzhou Teachers College with a major in English-language education.

On one hand, Chinese tech companies are facing increased scrutiny by the Chinese government led by President Xi Jinping, on the other hand, the tech firms are caught in an escalating trade war between the USA and China. He cited Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates as an example.

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