Alibaba Chairman on Monday announced that he will hand over the company Chairman's post to Daniel Zhang, who's currently the CEO of the company. Ma will remain the Executive Chairman for the next one year before Daniel Zhang takes over most of his responsibilities. Ma would, however, serve on the Alibaba board till 2020. Daniel Zhang, popularly known Xiaoyaozi (free and unfettered one) among Alibaba's 86,000 employees, has won the trust of the Chinese billionaire during his 11 years of association with the e-commerce giant.
Zhang joined the company in 2007, and was appointed the CEO of the company in May 2015. During his announcement to step down from the Alibaba Chairman's post, Ma said: "Since he took over as CEO, he has demonstrated his superb talent, business acumen and determined leadership. His analytical mind is unparalleled, he holds dear our mission and vision, he embraces responsibility with passion, and he has the guts to innovate and test creative business models. Deservedly, China's business news media has named him the Number 1 CEO in 2018."
Zhang's former colleagues describe him as the one with "thoughtfulness and humility". "I've worked closely with Daniel since 2007 when he first joined us as chief financial officer of Taobao. On intellect and energy, I can barely keep up with him. But it's his thoughtfulness and humility that is most impressive as a leader," said Joseph Tsai, Alibaba's executive vice-chairman told South China Morning Post.
Zhang is credited with leading Alibaba's mobile-first strategy and strategic acquisitions like Youku Tudou. He has also played an important role in the company's retail expansion strategy. Zhang studied finance at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. He started his career with Chinese gaming company Shanda Interactive Entertainment as the CFO. Before joining Alibaba, he worked as senior manager at PwC in Shanghai. In Alibaba, he has been credited with making Taobao, Alibaba's e-commerce platform, profitable. In China, he invented sales strategies like 'Double 11' shopping festival or Singles' Day, which have increased the company's revenue to over $25 billion.
Ma, a former English teacher, founded Alibaba in 1999 in an apartment in the eastern city of Hangzhou to connect Chinese suppliers with foreign retailers. It expanded into consumer retailing, online finance and other services, becoming the world's biggest e-commerce company by total value of goods sold across all its platforms.