High-profile Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma will step down as CEO of online retail giant Alibaba in May, but remain executive chairman, the company said Tuesday.
In a letter sent to employees of the company he founded, Ma, 48, said he would step aside as chief executive on May 10 but retain his post as chairman to continue providing strategic direction.
"It's not because I wanted to take things easy... it's because I see that Alibaba's young people have better, more brilliant, dreams than mine, and they are more capable of building a future that belongs to them," Ma said in the letter posted Tuesday on Alibaba's Chinese microblog.
A source confirmed the details of the post to AFP.
Ma did not name a successor but said Alibaba Group would announce his replacement when he formally relinquished the CEO role.
"In the future, my responsibilities as chairman will focus on strategic issues under the guidance of our board of directors," he said.
"I will assist the CEO in the development of our culture and talent, as well as helping our team to strengthen our social responsibility efforts."
A spokeswoman for Alibaba, which is based in the eastern city of Hangzhou, said the company had no further comment. "His letter speaks for itself," she said.
In 1999, Ma convinced friends to fund him with $60,000 to start the Chinese online retailer after being knocked back by American venture capitalists, allowing him to build one of the world's biggest trading sites.
The company has made Ma one of China's most wealthy people. Forbes magazine's annual ranking of China's 400 richest put him at 11th with a fortune of $3.4 billion in 2012.
He sold a 43 percent stake in Alibaba to Yahoo! for $1 billion in 2005, but relations between the US Internet pioneer, which later struggled, and China's top e-commerce player were stormy.
In May last year, Yahoo! said it had agreed to sell its stake in Alibaba back to the company for more than $7.0 billion. Alibaba has since completed an initial repurchase of shares from Yahoo! and restructured its relationship.
Alibaba's businesses include Taobao, China's most popular online shopping destination, which had more than 800 million product listings and more than 500 million registered users as of June 2012, according to its website.