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Alibaba sets 12-month succession plan for Jack Ma's chairman role

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. said Sept. 10 that CEO Daniel Zhang will succeed co-founder Jack Ma when he steps down as executive chairman of the Chinese e-commerce giant in one year.

Ma will continue in his current role until Sept. 10, 2019, to ensure a smooth transition, the company said. He will also complete his current term as a member of Alibaba's board of directors until its 2020 annual general meeting of shareholders.

However, Ma will continue to serve as a lifetime partner and committee member in the Alibaba Partnership, which comprises 36 partners holding senior management roles across the group or its affiliates, and has the right to nominate a majority of directors to the company's board.

"I have put a lot of thought and preparation into this succession plan for 10 years," Ma said in a Sept. 10 letter to Alibaba's customers, employees and shareholders. "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."

Ma, a former English teacher, co-founded Alibaba in 1999 and took the Hangzhou-based company to an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange in 2014.

The billionaire stepped down as CEO in May 2013 while remaining as company chairman. "Our partnership system, unique culture and talented team have laid a strong foundation for the legacy of our company," Ma wrote. "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."

He added: "Starting the process of passing the Alibaba torch to Daniel and his team is the right decision at the right time," noting that Zhang is an 11-year veteran of the company who has led the company to 13 consecutive quarters of growth.

Ma said he plans to return to education after he leaves the chairman post.