Alibaba's Jack Ma to retire on Monday, focus on philanthropy

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Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma will retire from the company he cofounded on Monday, telling media outlets he plans ply his more than $40 billion fortune on philanthropic efforts in education.

Ma informed The New York Times of the surprise move on Friday, saying he will step down as Alibaba's executive chairman effective Monday, when he turns 54. China's richest man will stay on the company's board of directors and intends to mentor upcoming management, the report said.

Ma founded Alibaba alongside 17 other people in 1999. Initially developed as a business-to-business e-commerce solution, Alibaba found its stride when it launched the consumer centric Taobao marketplace in 2003.

A behemoth in the Chinese internet shopping space, the company launched complementary services in online payments product Alipay, which was spun out to as subsidiary Ant Financial.

Apple was at one point rumored to partner with Alibaba through Ant in a bid to bring Apple Pay to the Chinese market. Those plans failed to materialize and Alibaba instead integrated with rival payments service Samsung Pay in 2016.

Beyond e-commerce and digital payments, Alibaba has its fingers in online banking, cloud computing digital media and entertainment, and other internet-based products and services.

Ma's departure comes as a surprise to many, as Chinese tycoons rarely retire at such an early age. The move is unlikely to leave the $420 billion company in dire straits, as a number of co-founders and well-seasoned managers are ready to take the reins.