Alibaba’s Jack Ma to retire on Monday

Screenshot via Bloomberg

Screenshot via Bloomberg

His retirement is not an end of an era but "the beginning of an era", Ma told the publication in an interview adding that he would be spending more of his time and fortune on education.

Ma was born into a poor family in the city of Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province. He co-founded the Chinese internet retailer in 1999 and built it into an empire now worth $420 billion and making the former English teacher China's richest man worth about $40 billion.

It remains unclear whether Alibaba will appoint a new chairman after Ma formally retires from the company on Monday.

Among China's biggest companies, Alibaba is viewed as one of the firms with the deepest ranks of management talent.

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Known as Ma Yun in mainland China, he is scheduled to be in Russia next week to formalise Alibaba's venture with Mail.ru, the internet company owned by Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov and sovereign wealth fund Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). But Ma on Thursday told Bloomberg TV that he was mulling an early retirement similar to Bill Gates' early exit from Microsoft.

"There's a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates", he said.

Huge conglomerates like Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JD.com are to China what Facebook and Google are to the United States.

Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma is China's third richest person with a net worth of $36.6 billion.

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Ma is stepping back at a tricky time for Chinese tech firms. Ma plans to remain on the board of directors of the Chinese e-commerce giant, which he co-founded in 1999 and which turned him into the richest man in China as of Friday.

While Ma's retirement from a formal role is a milestone, analysts and industry professionals say it is unlikely Ma's involvement will change significantly. "This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba", he said.

While Ma has been serving as Alibaba's executive chairman after handing the CEO title to David Zhang in 2013, the New York Times reports that Zhang is a candidate to take over his chairman duties.

Today, Alibaba's empire encompasses e-commerce, online banking, cloud computing, digital media and entertainment - and even a corporate messaging service similar to Slack.

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As Beijing has increased its involvement in the private sector, Ma has shifted what he has said about China's government.

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