One of China’s best-known businessmen, Jack Ma, will step down as chief executive of Alibaba, the hugely successful e-commerce firm he founded.
In a letter to employees, Mr Ma said he would appoint a successor and act only as an executive chairman from 10 May.
The move comes just days after Alibaba said it was breaking up its business into 25 different units that will be led by different executives.
Alibaba, founded in 1999, is one of the world’s biggest online companies.
“I see that Alibaba’s young people have better, more brilliant, dreams than mine, and they are more capable of building a future that belongs to them,” Mr Ma said in the letter, adding that the decision had been a difficult one.
Alibaba Group is the parent company behind Alibaba.com, an online marketplace for small businesses, Taobao, a shopping site for consumers as well as Alipay, an online payment service.
China is the world’s biggest internet market with more than 500 million users.
The size of the market is expected to grow even further as more users in rural areas get access to the internet.
Alibaba, one of the early entrants in the market and one that has benefited tremendously from the boom, has said that it was restructuring its business to ensure that it continues to grow and dominate the market.
Analysts said that ensuring a smooth transition in the business model will be key to the next chief executive’s success.
“The biggest challenge a new chief executive officer faces is making sure the new business units can effectively coordinate among themselves,” said Yang Xiao, a Beijing-based analyst with research firm Analysys International.
“As they are supposed to be able to work independently, it remains to be seen how effective and authoritative the new CEO can be.”
However, other analysts were of the opinion that despite stepping down as the boss, Mr Ma will continue to have a big say in the firm.
“Jack Ma may not be running the day-to-day activities… he will still have an influence in where the company should be headed,” Frederick Wong, executive director of Avant Capital Management (HK).