Jack Ma plans to step down from Alibaba on Monday

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Ma's net worth is $39.9 billion, according to Bloomberg's Billionaires Index. Ma plans to remain on the board of directors of the Chinese e-commerce giant, which he co-founded in 1999 and which turned him into the richest man in China as of Friday.

Ma will turn 54 years old on Monday, the day he is retiring. This will be a big change of guard for the $420 billion dollar Chinese internet company.

Mr Ma told the New York Times that his decision to stand down was not the end of an era but "the beginning of an era" and that he "loved" education.

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Alibaba started as a business-to-business marketplace, but had enormous growth when it started selling to consumers.

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. It's also one of the largest payment processors, with its Alipay service (now Ant Financial) relying on 2D code linked to bank accounts to allow retailers to accept electronic payments.

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

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Mr Ma began his professional life teaching English at a university in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, in eastern Zhejiang province. Known for his rags to riches story, he has said he would now focus on helping those in need and would look at giving back to the society at large.

Ma is the first of his generation of superwealthy tech CEOs to retire, an unusual move in a country where successful business leaders often run their empires well into their 80s - Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing only retired in May at the age of 89.

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