Ma conveyed the news himself to Alibaba customers and shareholders, following conflicting reports that arose over the weekend on the timing of his exit. Ma is expected to hand over the reins to Daniel Zhang, who is currently serving as chief executive – and is expected to assume the new position on 10 September 2019, according to a company statement.

The one year handover period aims to achieve a “smooth and successful transition.”

Ma, whose net worth is currently valuated at $36.6bn, co-founded Alibaba in 1999 – and has since seen it become one of the world’s biggest internet companies.

He was a former English teacher, and now plans to go back to the education field.

“Teachers always want their students to exceed them, so the responsible thing to do for me and the company to do is to let younger, more talented people take over in leadership roles,” said the charismatic business leader in the letter, which was released on his 54th birthday.

Ma however, will remain a director on Alibaba’s board until its annual shareholder meeting in 2020. He is also a permanent member of the Alibaba Partnership.

“The world is big, and I am still young, so I want to try new things,” he stated.

“The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba.” He further added – elaborating on his plans to still continue as founding partner.

Alibaba listed in New York in 2014 in what was then the world’s biggest initial public offering of shares.

It reported revenues of $39.9bn for the fiscal year ended March 2018.