Jack Ma co-founded Alibaba in 1999 that became one of the world's biggest internet firms.
Beijing: Jack Ma, China's iconic billionaire and founder of Alibaba, retired on Tuesday as the Executive Chairman of the e-commerce giant on his 55th birthday, marking the end of an era for his firm in the Communist country.
Born to a poor family, Ma, who is the most revered businessmen among the Chinese people, grew up to become China's richest man.
Ma co-founded Alibaba in 1999 that became one of the world's biggest internet firms. Alibaba, which has multitude businesses, is now valued at $480 billion and Ma was listed by the Forbes magazine last year as China's richest man, with a net worth of $39 billion.
Ma had made the surprise announcement of retirement last year, sending shockwaves in his company as well as business circles of the world's second largest economy. He named the company's Chief Executive Officer, (CEO) Daniel Zhang as his successor while he would continue to be company's Director.
"I think it will be very hard to replace somebody like Jack Ma," Rebecca Fannin, Author of a book on China's technology titans, said.
"He is one of a kind. He is the Steve Jobs of China, " Fannin was quoted as saying to the BBC.
Ma's retirement announcement last year sparked off speculation that he may be stepping down due to prevailing business environment in China.
The New York Times in its report soon after the announcement of his retirement last year said Ma is retiring as China's business environment has soured, with Beijing and state-owned enterprises increasingly playing more interventionist roles with companies.
However, Ma refuted the report saying that, "gossip has been around us every day for the past 19 years. For someone who has a dream for the future, gossips, rumours, hardships and frustrations will always be part of your life."