Shanghai: Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma announced on Monday he would step down as head of the pioneering Chinese e-commerce giant in one year, a departure already drawing comparisons to the retirement of late Apple founder Steve Jobs.
Analysts said the early withdrawal of 54-year-old Ma, the charismatic face of a company that has revolutionised how and what China´s people consume, will challenge Alibaba to carry on Ma´s vision amid rising competition.
But like Apple´s transition to current boss Tim Cook, Alibaba´s CEO and anointed successor Daniel Zhang is less magnetic than his predecessor but has proven an able steward since effectively taking the operational reins years ago, they said.
"Day-to-day operations-wise Alibaba will not be affected that much. But since he´s (Ma) the face of the company, people may lose a little bit of faith," said Jackson Wong, associate director with Huarong Securities in Hong Kong. "But where Jobs died, Ma is expected to stay on in an advisory role, so there shouldn´t be too much impact." Ma -- who turned 54 on Monday -- said in a statement he will serve as executive chairman until his 55th birthday before passing the torch to Zhang. "I will work closely with Daniel to ensure a smooth and successful transition," Ma said. Ma, who has expressed a desire to follow in the philanthropic footsteps of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, said he would remain on Alibaba´s board until 2020.