Founder of Alibaba Jack Ma’s Let­ter on His Re­tire­ment

FICCI Business Digest - - Upfront - Jack Ma 10 Septem­ber 2018

Dear Alibaba cus­tomers, Aliren, and share­hold­ers, To­day, as we mark the 19th an­niver­sary of Alibaba, I am ex­cited to share some news with you: with the ap­proval of our board of di­rec­tors, one year from to­day on Septem­ber 10, 2019 which also falls on Alibaba's 20th an­niver­sary, Group CEO Daniel Zhang will suc­ceed me as chair­man of the board of Alibaba Group. While re­main­ing as ex­ec­u­tive chair­man in the next 12 months, I will work closely with Daniel to en­sure a smooth and suc­cess­ful tran­si­tion. There­after, I will stay on the Alibaba board of di­rec­tors un­til our an­nual share­hold­ers meet­ing in 2020.

I have put a lot of thought and prepa­ra­tion into this suc­ces­sion plan for ten years. I am de­lighted to an­nounce the plan to­day thanks to the sup­port of the Alibaba Part­ner­ship and our board of di­rec­tors. I also want to of­fer spe­cial thanks to all Alibaba col­leagues and your fam­i­lies, be­cause your trust, sup­port and our joint en­ter­prise over the past 19 years have pre­pared us for this day with con­fi­dence and strength.

This tran­si­tion demon­strates that Alibaba has stepped up to the next level of cor­po­rate gov­er­nance from a com­pany that re­lies on in­di­vid­u­als, to one built on sys­tems of or­ga­ni­za­tional ex­cel­lence and a cul­ture of tal­ent de­vel­op­ment.

When Alibaba was founded in 1999, our goal was to build a com­pany that could make China and the world proud and one that could cross three cen­turies to last 102 years. How­ever, we all knew that no one could stay with the com­pany for 102 years. A sus­tain­able Alibaba would have to be built on sound gov­er­nance, cul­ture-cen­tric phi­los­o­phy, and con­sis­tency in de­vel­op­ing tal­ent. No com­pany can rely solely on its founders. Of all peo­ple, I should know that. Be­cause of phys­i­cal lim­its on one's abil­ity and en­ergy, no one can shoul­der the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of chair­man and CEO for­ever.

We asked our­selves this ques­tion 10 years ago – how could Alibaba achieve sus­tain­able growth after Jack Ma leaves the com­pany? We be­lieved the only way to solve the prob­lem of cor­po­rate lead­er­ship suc­ces­sion was to de­velop a sys­tem of gov­er­nance based on a unique cul­ture and mech­a­nisms for de­vel­op­ing con­sis­tent tal­ent and suc­ces­sors. For the last 10 years, we kept work­ing on these in­gre­di­ents.

Hav­ing been trained as a teacher, I feel ex­tremely proud of what I have achieved. Teach­ers al­ways want their stu­dents to ex­ceed them, so the re­spon­si­ble thing to do for me and the com­pany to do is to let younger, more tal­ented peo­ple take over in lead­er­ship roles so that they in­herit our mis­sion “to make it easy to do business any­where.” Car­ry­ing out this mis­sion in or­der to help small busi­nesses, young peo­ple and women around the world is my pas­sion. This is not only our in­tent from day one but I feel blessed to have this op­por­tu­nity. To re­al­ize the dream be­hind this mis­sion re­quires par­tic­i­pa­tion by a lot more peo­ple than just Jack Ma and per­sis­tent ef­fort by gen­er­a­tions of Aliren.

Alibaba is amaz­ing not be­cause of our business or scale or ac­com­plish­ments. The best thing about Alibaba is that we come to­gether un­der a com­mon mis­sion and vi­sion. Our part­ner­ship sys­tem, unique cul­ture and tal­ented team have laid a strong foun­da­tion for the legacy of our com­pany. In fact, since I handed over the CEO's re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in 2013, the com­pany has run smoothly for five years on the back of these in­sti­tu­tional in­gre­di­ents.

The part­ner­ship sys­tem we de­vel­oped is a cre­ative solution to good gov­er­nance and sus­tain­abil­ity, as it over­comes sev­eral chal­lenges faced by com­pa­nies of scale: con­tin­u­ous in­no­va­tion, lead­er­ship suc­ces­sion, ac­count­abil­ity and cul­tural con­ti­nu­ity. Over the years, in it­er­at­ing our man­age­ment model, we have ex­per­i­mented with and im­proved on the right bal­ance be­tween sys­tems and in­di­vid­u­als. Sim­ply re­ly­ing on in­di­vid­u­als or blindly fol­low­ing a sys­tem will not solve our prob­lems. To achieve long-term sus­tain­able growth, you need the right bal­ance among sys­tem, peo­ple and cul­ture. I have full con­fi­dence that our part­ner­ship sys­tem and ef­forts to safe­guard our cul­ture will in time win over the love and sup­port from cus­tomers, em­ploy­ees and share­hold­ers.

Since the found­ing of the com­pany in 1999, we have been of the view that Alibaba's fu­ture will need to de­pend on “droves of tal­ent” to en­able us to it­er­ate on our man­age­ment suc­ces­sion plans. After years of hard work, to­day's Alibaba has a world-class tal­ent pool in qual­ity and quan­tity. The teacher in me feels ex­tremely proud of our team,

our lead­er­ship and our unique mis­sion-driven cul­ture, as well as the fact that we con­tinue to de­velop ex­cep­tional business lead­ers and pro­fes­sional tal­ent like Daniel Zhang.

Daniel has been with Alibaba Group for 11 years. Since he took over as CEO, he has demon­strated his su­perb tal­ent, business acu­men and de­ter­mined lead­er­ship. Un­der his stew­ard­ship, Alibaba has seen con­sis­tent and sus­tain­able growth for 13 con­sec­u­tive quar­ters. His an­a­lyt­i­cal mind is un­par­al­leled, he holds dear our mis­sion and vi­sion, he em­braces re­spon­si­bil­ity with pas­sion, and he has the guts to in­no­vate and test cre­ative business mod­els. De­servedly, China's business news me­dia has named him the No.1 CEO in 2018. For these rea­sons, he and his team have won the trust and sup­port of cus­tomers, em­ploy­ees and share­hold­ers. Start­ing the process of pass­ing the Alibaba torch to Daniel and his team is the right de­ci­sion at the right time, be­cause I know from work­ing with them that they are ready, and I have com­plete con­fi­dence in our next gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers.

As for my­self, I still have lots of dreams to pur­sue. Those who know me know that I do not like to sit idle. I plan on con­tin­u­ing my role as the found­ing part­ner in the Alibaba Part­ner­ship and con­trib­ute to the work of the part­ner­ship. I also want to re­turn to ed­u­ca­tion, which ex­cites me with so much bless­ing be­cause this is what I love to do. The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things – be­cause what if new dreams can be re­al­ized?!

The one thing I can prom­ise ev­ery­one is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will for­ever be­long to Alibaba.

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