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Billionaire Jack Ma Retires As Alibaba's Chairman

Sep 12, 2019
Originally published on September 12, 2019 10:05 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of China's e-commerce giant Alibaba, likes to say the key to his success is the people he hires.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JACK MA: When I hire people, I always want to hire those people who are smarter than I am. Look at the young man. If you think he will be your boss, he will be my boss in five years, hire him.

INSKEEP: Well, this week, Jack Ma is retiring, and a young man that he hired - not five but 12 years ago - is Daniel Zhang, who is taking over as Alibaba's new CEO.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Ma has a famous rags-to-riches story in China, and he handed his company over to Zhang in dramatic fashion - in a sports stadium before thousands of employees. Both were dressed up as rock stars, in leather and sequins...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU RAISE ME UP")

MA: (Singing) When I am down and, oh, my soul so weary...

MARTIN: Yep, that's Jack Ma himself singing a duet of "You Raise Me Up," along with his successor.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU RAISE ME UP")

MA: (Singing) And my heart burdened be...

INSKEEP: Alibaba's story says a lot about China today. While the company hopes to grow beyond the Chinese market, it does not challenge the government's tight control of the Internet.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU RAISE ME UP")

DANIEL ZHANG: (Singing) I am strong when I am on your shoulders...

MARTIN: As for Ma, he's got big ambitions for himself. Even in retirement, he intends to do as Microsoft founder Bill Gates did and devote himself to philanthropy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MA: People say, Jack, you are the next Bill Gates. I say, I cannot compete with Bill Gates, but I can compete with Bill Gates who can retire earlier.

INSKEEP: Jack Ma is 55, just a bit younger than Bill Gates was when he stepped down as Microsoft chairman at the age of 58.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU RAISE ME UP")

ZHANG: (Singing) You raise me up... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.