By Adam Lashinsky and Jeff John Roberts
September 10, 2018

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Jack Ma has spoken frequently about retiring. When I interviewed him last year, for example, he said he’d been thinking about retirement since he turned 45 and that eventually younger people deserve a shot to lead. “I don’t want to die in my office,” he said. “I want to die on the beach.”

Ma made his departure official Monday, announcing he’ll step down as executive chairman in one year. That would be his 55th birthday, or a decade to the day he says he started thinking about when to hang it up.

Tongues from China to Seattle to Washington, D.C., immediately began wagging: Why is Ma leaving? Has Alibaba peaked? Does Ma think China has peaked? Is he cleverly sidestepping the day when he can no longer run his business without overt interference from government officials in Beijing?

Having observed Ma at Alibaba headquarters in Hangzhou this past summer, I’m guessing the correct answer is ‘none of the above.’ Ma’s commitment to Alibaba, where he is a cult figure, is sincere. I watched him give a pep rally to new management recruits, and it was tough to tell who was more enthusiastic, them or him.

To outsiders, it’s also tough to reconcile Ma’s departure with the ascension of his 46-year-old successor, Daniel Zhang, a former accountant and 11-year veteran of Alibaba. Zhang has little of Ma’s charisma. But few people do. According to Alibaba insiders, Zhang is a workaholic who touches every aspect of what happens at Alibaba. Despite the hunger by the outside world to hear from Jack Ma, it is Daniel Zhang who already calls the day-to-day shots.

Just as the second career of philanthropist Bill Gates has been a wonder to watch, the next chapter of Jack Ma’s life will be fascinating.


Quartz published a thoughtful speculative piece about Apple’s video strategy. They postulate that Apple plans to give away the programs it is spending profusely to acquire rather than charging them. The article also wonders if Apple will illuminate its strategy at its product-launch event this week

Adam Lashinsky


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