Jack Ma Founder and executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group in Brussels, Belgium - 03 Jul 2018Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group arrives for a meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel at the Lambermont in Brussels, Belgium, 03 July 2018.

BEIJING — Alibaba cofounder and chairman, Jack Ma, said he planned to step down from the Chinese e-commerce giant on Monday to pursue philanthropy in education, according to a report in The New York Times published Friday evening.

WWD has reached out to the company outside of regular business hours to confirm.

Ma called his retirement “the beginning of an era,” and would remain on Alibaba’s board, the Times said. He stepped down as Alibaba’s chief executive officer in 2013 with the role taken by Daniel Zhang, also seen as his likely eventual successor.

The revelation comes just on the heels of the closing of the second edition of the Alibaba-created Xin Philanthropy Conference, which ended on Wednesday. Ma’s reported plans to dedicate his time to education philanthropy would bring the business mogul back to his roots as an English teacher in rural China.

Ma, who turns 54 on Monday, started Alibaba as an online shopping platform in 1999 and helped grow it into a $420 billion business that now spans retail, financial payments, cloud computing, logistics, film and entertainment, with growing international interests particularly in Southeast Asia through its investment into Lazada.

Its immense influence has helped to shape what is called the BAT generation within China, an acronym which stands for Baidu and Tencent — two other Internet behemoths that have fundamentally shifted the way consumers think and operate.

Last year, Ma detailed that he wanted the company to serve two billion consumers on the platform via 10 million businesses, and become the world’s fifth largest economy by the year 2036.

His retirement represents more uncertainty among China’s Internet guard. Richard Liu, ceo of China’s second largest e-commerce platform and the main rival to Alibaba, JD.com, was arrested last week in connection with a sexual assault charge, although he was released and denies any wrongdoing.

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