On 4 January, the world woke up to the news of Alibaba co-founders Jack Ma Yun and Xie Shihuang giving up their equities in Zhejiang Taobao Network Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “Taobao”). The data from corporate information retrieval portals, Tianyancha and Qichacha, also cited Hangzhou Zhenxi Investment Management Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “Zhenxi”) as Taobao’s sole shareholder.
However, Alibaba issued a statement on 7 January saying Jack Ma has neither transferred or exited Taobao’s shares nor does he has plans to do so in immediate future. The adjustment is a standard procedure and for technical and legal reasons. The move will make Alibaba’s management more transparent and open, the statement said.
The information on the adjustment is disclosed in the July 2018 annual report, Alibaba told reporters of Chinese business news website The Economic Observer. Jack Ma will continue to serve as a partner of Alibaba and influence and play a key role in the company’s partner mechanism.
Hangzhou Zhenqiang and Hangzhou Zhencheng Investment Management Partnership hold 50% shares each of Zhenxi. The top five senior executives have 20% equity apiece of Hangzhou Zhenqiang and Zhencheng combined. The fab five include Alibaba’s chairman and CEO Zhang Yong, head of Alibaba Global Business Department, Zhao Yin, partner and chief platform officer Zheng Junfang, chief talent officer Dong Wenhong and Party secretary Shao Xiaofeng. To cut a long story short, the band of five controls Taobao’s entire cap table.
According to Qichacha, since January 2018, Jack Ma and Xie Shihuang transferred their respective shares in Alibaba-related companies including Tmall Network Co., Ltd., Hangzhou Ali Technology Co., Ltd, Alibaba Cloud Computing Co., Ltd, Hangzhou Alibaba Advertising Co., Ltd., and Taobao Network.
Jack Ma has previously served as a legal representative of 19 affiliated companies. As of now, Ma has exited from 14.
In the course of last year, Ma seems to be slowly spiriting away from Alibaba setup - in tune with his retirement plan announced September last year. Ma said he has been working on the Partner Mechanism and talent pool since 2009 to build a sustainable Alibaba ecosystem. Alibaba CMO Chris Tung also echoed similar sentiments when he said Alibaba will last “with or without Jack Ma”.
Alibaba CEO Zhang Yong said his duties have increased in the last three years as Ma’s public appearances have decreased. It is evident that the succession plan has been long time in making.
Jack Ma said he always wanted to go back to education field. “I am not retreating, but rushing forward,” he said on one occasion.