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Alibaba's New Chairman and Ma’s Letter

Following Jack Ma’s departure next year, Daniel Zhang will become Alibaba’s new chairman. Referring to himself as a “free and noncooperative person,” Zhang is the presumed choice because he’s been CEO since 2015. Someone who knows Zhang explained why he may have chosen the phrase “free and uncooperative”: “[H]e’s always chasing and seeking—to be free and not tied down to anything.”


A Bloomberg report describes Zhang as a “rising star” who did a great job implementing Ma’s strategy and vision and is “taking the company to the next level.”


A press release on the company website includes a letter from Jack Ma, which expresses confidence in Zhang:


“Daniel has been with Alibaba Group for 11 years. Since he took over as CEO, he has demonstrated his superb talent, business acumen and determined leadership. Under his stewardship, Alibaba has seen consistent and sustainable growth for 13 consecutive quarters. 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 No.1 CEO in 2018. For these reasons, he and his team have won the trust and support of customers, employees and shareholders. Starting the process of passing the Alibaba torch to Daniel and his team is the right decision at the right time, because I know from working with them that they are ready, and I have complete confidence in our next generation of leaders.”


The letter ends on an emotional note: “The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.”






  • Read the entire press release. Who is the audience? How would you describe the organizational structure?
  • The press release with Ma’s long letter included is unusual. We don’t see a quotation from Zhang; typically, an incoming executive will be quoted. Why do you think this was excluded? What could Zhang have said?
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