China's richest man is going step down as executive chairman of the $420-billion Alibaba Group on Monday when he turns 54, he said in an interview with the NYT.
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. He added that he would be spending more of his time and fortune focussed on education.
Ma said he could never be as rich as Gates - but that he could retire earlier than Gates.
Alibaba started as an online marketplace for businesses to sell their products to other businesses.
Ma, 53, is also China's wealthiest individual.
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.
It owns a stake in China's hugely popular Twitter-like Weibo platform and in 2015 it bought the South China Morning Post newspaper.
"People in China and America, one thing we have in common is the heart of love and respect", Ma said.
Alibaba has one of the strongest management teams in corporate China and even if he steps down, Ma is likely still to have a role in setting top-level strategy, says Brock Silvers, MD of Kaiyuan Capital. Apart from e-commerce, Alibaba also handles digital payments, online banking, cloud computing and digital media and entertainment, reported CNET.
As Alibaba has flourished, Ma has talked many times about how he did not want to spend his whole life at the company, saying he would retire one day and go back to teaching. He cited Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates as an example.