Leadership

Self-made billionaire Jack Ma: I will do this one thing better than Bill Gates 

Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma (right) poses with American business magnate Bill Gates for a photo at Alibaba's Chinese culture feast on the first day of the World Economic Forum 2018 Annual Meeting. 
Visual China Group | Getty Images
Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma (right) poses with American business magnate Bill Gates for a photo at Alibaba's Chinese culture feast on the first day of the World Economic Forum 2018 Annual Meeting. 

Jack Ma, one of the richest men in China, announced last week that he will step down from the company he founded to focus on philanthropy. Today, he announced this transition will happen within the next year and that he will hand his chairman role to Daniel Zhang, currently Alibaba's chief executive.

A former educator, Ma made this most recent announcement Monday — the day that marks his 54th birthday and a national Chinese holiday known as Teacher's day. Ma reportedly is known as "Teacher Ma" within Alibaba.

Ma founded his Jack Ma foundation in 2014, inspired in part by Bill Gates. His organization was created to make improvements in rural China's educational system.

"I think education is so critical for the future," Ma said last week. "I learned so much from the Alibaba journey in the past 19 years, it's my responsibility to share."

"I miss teaching very much. I came to the business field by accident," continued Ma, a man who was rejected from more than 30 jobs after college, including a job at KFC, in the years before starting Alibaba. "I think some day, very soon, I will go back to teaching and education. This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba."

Ma said he has learned from the examples of Gates and Buffett, but will try to make his own path. While Buffett and Gates are among a handful of billionaires that have promised to give away most of their wealth, Ma did not confirm that he would do the same.

"I will learn from Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and a lot of great philanthropists in the world, but I want to do something using my own way," Ma told Bloomberg.

Ma said there's one key move Gates did not make that he could do better.

"I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier," Ma said.

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