Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma to retire

Screenshot via Bloomberg

An Alibaba spokesman said Ma remains the company's executive chairman and will provide transition plans over a significant period of time, contrary to a New York Times article that said he was "stepping down" to "retire". "I'm sure he'll be just as involved as he has been in his chairman role, even if he doesn't have the formal title", Kevin Carter, founder of The Emerging Markets Internet exchange-trade fund, told the news agency.

In an interview with The New York Times, Ma said it was time for him to focus on his first passion: education.

"I am very thankful for Australia and the time I spent there in my youth", Ma said during his visit.

Ma's decision also comes as USA police investigate an allegation of rape against Richard Liu, head of e-commerce rival JD.com Inc (JD.O), which has hammered its shares.

Shares of Alibaba fell more than two per cent in after-hours trading on reports of his retirement.

Ma, a former English teacher, co-founded Alibaba in 1999.

Ma started his journey with just USA $ 60,000 - loaned to him by friends, and started Alibaba in 1999.

Alibaba has been referred to as the Amazon of China.

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Ma, who is China's third-richest person with a net worth of $36.6 billion, according to Forbes magazine, was quoted by the NYT as saying that his retirement is not the end of an era, but "the beginning of an era". "This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba", he said. Jack Ma who will be turning 54 on September 10 has said that after quitting Alibaba he wants to pursue philanthropy in education.

But in an interview with Bloomberg TV broadcast on Friday, Ma indicated that he had plans to soon retire and that he wanted to follow Microsoft founder Bill Gates as one of the world's most prolific philanthropists.

Alibaba is the largest e-commerce company in China, with a portfolio ranging from online shopping to cloud computing to food delivery.

He started Alibaba from his flat in Hangzhou with a group of friends.

He has inspired strong devotion among his employees and users, drawing comparisons with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs - although he practices a more open management style.

He is one of the most colourful of China's growing crop of billionaires, performing a Michael Jackson-inspired dance routine at the company's 18th anniversary celebration previous year, and starring in his own kung fu short film.

A devotee of tai chi, he has made references to Chinese martial arts in both business strategy and corporate culture.

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