Jack Ma will step down from his role on Monday - his 54th birthday - and plans to devote his time to philanthropy and education. The company has increased its presence outside China by investing in e-commerce and online finance companies in India and Southeast Asia.
Ma was born in September 1964 to Chinese traditional musician-storytellers living in Hangzhou, an ancient capital that has become a global hi-tech hub and bastion of entrepreneurship, in part because of Alibaba's base there.
In terms of the impact on the Chinese market and various business sectors, Duncan Clark, author of the book Alibaba: The House Jack Ma Built, explained:"He's a symbol of the health of China's private sector and how high they can fly whether he likes it or not". Alibaba has more than 86,000 employees on staff.
But Jack Ma's connection to Australia goes much deeper thanks to his friendship with the late Ken Morley, a local electrical engineer, who helped Ma on his journey from a poor youth to e-commerce tycoon.
He is one of the most colourful of China's growing crop of billionaires, performing a Michael Jackson-inspired dance routine at the company's 18th anniversary celebration a year ago, and starring in his own kung fu short film. "On a day-to-day basis, Alibaba shareholders probably have little to fear should the charismatic Ma pull back a bit further". "All these things that I've been preparing for 10 years".
Alibaba's growth and Ma's wealth track changes in modern China, in which a burgeoning urban middle class has more money to spend while authorities allowed large accumulations of wealth, especially when connected to forward-thinking enterprises.
Ma's net worth is $39.9 billion, according to Bloomberg's Billionaires Index. Morley brought young Ma to Australia in 1985 for his first overseas trip, when he spent almost a month in Newcastle, an experience which the Chinese businessman said had "totally changed my future".
While Ma has been serving as Alibaba's executive chairman after handing the CEO title to David Zhang in 2013, the New York Times reports that Zhang is a candidate to take over his chairman duties.
Ma said he sees himself as an accidental executive.
A former English teacher before establishing Alibaba with 17 partners, Ma is known by colleagues as "Teacher Ma".
"I've prepared a Jack Ma Foundation. I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier", Ma said during an interview last week with Bloomberg Television.