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Ma bows out with a song for China and his Alibaba friends
Aggregated Source: Shanghai Daily: Business

JACK Ma, founder of China's largest e-commerce company Alibaba Group and one of the country's most charismatic bosses, was in fine voice yesterday as he officially stepped down as chief executive officer.

Ma entertained more than 35,000 employees, guests and friends at an annual gathering of Taobao employees in Hangzhou by singing two Chinese songs - "I Love You, China" and "Friends" - dressed in a silver coat and black hat.

The occasion marked the 10th anniversary of the establishment of Taobao, the popular online shopping website.

It wasn't the first time Ma had sung at Taobao events. In 2009 he dressed as a rock star to sing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight."

He told yesterday's gathering: "We have gone a long way to stand here today and perseverance and dreams have enabled us to go such a long way in this changing era. I will not come back as CEO even if I can because I believe you can do a better job than me.

"I'll do something that can bring me more interest from tomorrow such as education and environmental protection."

One of Ma's future roles will be as director of The Nature Conservancy in China.

He knelt down before the audience as he urged them to make the environment better, the sky and water clearer.

He then embraced his successor, Lu Zhaoxi, a Taobao veteran with 13 years' experience. "I hope you'll have as much confidence in him as you have in me," Ma said.

Lu has served as head of Taobao as well as, the business-to-business trading platform for small businesses.

Ma was ranked 11th place in Forbes' rich list for the Chinese mainland last year with assets of US$3.4 billion.

Alibaba Group was founded in Hangzhou in 1999 led by Jack Ma and 17 co-founders.

In last year's fourth quarter, it became China's most profitable Internet company with profits more than doubling to US$642 million.

Ma, a native of Hangzhou, was an English teacher after he graduated from Hangzhou Normal University in 1988. He set up an English translation firm in 1991 and did a number of part-time jobs including as an interpreter. He then set up a web page for Chinese companies around 1995., the online site that allows individuals to sell products and services, was set up in Hangzhou in 2003.

Ma said in January that he would leave the daily operations of Alibaba to a younger generation of leaders.

He will stay on as chairman, putting more focus on strategic issues, corporate development and social responsibility.

Alibaba was split into seven business units last year and restructured into 25 divisions in January.

Also yesterday, Ma opened a tai chi center in Hangzhou with kung fu star Jet Li. Ma, a martial arts fan, has already woven the tai chi philosophy into business management on how to make forays and when to retreat.

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