After 14 years of building up the Alibaba Group into one of the biggest Internet companies in the world, Jack Ma is taking a step back from the chief executive role of the Chinese e-commerce giant.
But Ma is not leaving entirely; he will hold on to the role of executive chairman, he told The New York Times in an interview on Monday. He plans to name his successor when his title change becomes effective on May 10.
He will not be the only one to hand over some of the company's reins. Ma said that most of Alibaba's leaders "born in the 1960s" will pass their leadership responsibilities to younger colleagues, born in the 1970s and 1980s.
"We believe that they understand the future better than us, and then have a better chance of seizing the future," he wrote in an email to employees explaining his change in duties.
The shift is the biggest change yet at Alibaba in some time, as it continues to ready itself for the next chapter of its existence. Last week, the company said that it was cleaving itself into 25 smaller divisions -- to give managers more flexibility.
And it follows the transformative deal that Alibaba struck with Yahoo last year, in which the Chinese company agreed to buy back about half of the stake in itself held by Yahoo, its U.S. partner. Alibaba had long sought to repurchase the shares to help regain control over its corporate destiny.
For Ma, the decision to step back from day-to-day management was borne
"I'm 48. I'm no longer young enough to run such a fast-growing business," Ma said in the interview. "When I was 35, I was so energetic and fresh-thinking. I had nothing to worry about."
Come May, Ma will slide into the role of executive chairman, which he said would let him focus on broad strategic issues.
It is a move that the entrepreneur said had been in the works for some time. He has been training "a few candidates" among the younger generation for the chief executive position.
Speculation about who will take over is likely to focus on the heads of Alibaba's biggest businesses, including Alibaba.com, an online market for small businesses; Taobao, an enormous consumer shopping site; and Alipay, an online payment platform.