Nearly 20 years after he founded Alibaba, the Amazon of China, Executive Chairman Jack Ma plans to retire to focus on philanthropy, according to a report. He is the first among a generation of Chinese internet entrepreneurs to leave the companies they've founded.
"There are so many things that I want to devote my time to - education, the environment, philanthropy", Ma said, denying that he's thinking of handing over the reins at a time when the business environment has soured.
Huge conglomerates like Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JD.com are China's equivalent of western tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook and Google.
Alibaba is active in sectors across the Chinese economy and has transformed many.
Ma started Alibaba in 1999 in his apartment in the Chinese city of Hangzhou and is now among the richest people in the world.
Ma also controls Ant Financial, the online financial platform that runs China's largest mobile payment system and money-market fund.More news: Leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran meet for high-stakes Syria talks
While Ma's retirement from a formal role is a milestone, analysts and industry professionals say it is unlikely Ma's involvement will change significantly. "This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba".
Ma's announcement was somewhat unorthodox; the Times is blocked in China by Communist Party censors, while there was no official statement from Alibaba.
The company's value has soared in recent years thanks to a growing portfolio that includes cloud computing, films, electronic payments and retail.
According to Alibaba's annual report filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Ma is a lifetime member of the Alibaba Partnership, a group of 36 senior managers who are responsible for maintaining the mission and culture of Alibaba.
Ma has inspired strong devotion among his employees and users, drawing comparisons with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs - although he practised a more open management style.
He is one of the most colorful of China's growing crop of billionaires, performing a Michael Jackson-inspired dance routine at the company's 18th anniversary celebration previous year, and starring in his own kung fu short film.
Earlier this week, Mr Ma told Bloomberg TV that he wanted to create a personal foundation, following in the footsteps of Microsoft's Bill Gates.