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Jack Ma

Co-Founder, Alibaba Group

The Chinese business magnate built his tech empire around e-commerce platforms and is spearheading the ‘new retail’ movement across Asia.


Jack Ma is the co-founder of tech conglomerate Alibaba Group and is a global ambassador for Chinese business. Having built his company from the ground up, he invested in a number of tech and e-commerce firms, with stakes in Lazada, YCloset, Tokopedia, Shiji, Intime Retail Group and Ordre. Since launching Luxury Pavilion in 2017, 60 luxury brands including Burberry, Versace, Marni, Tod’s and Givenchy have joined the e-commerce site, which is accessible through Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao platforms.

Born Ma Yun to Chinese traditional musician-storytellers in Hangzhou, he taught himself English aged 12 and offered free guided tours to practice his English with foreign visitors. Ma graduated from Hangzhou Teachers College and became an English teacher, paid $15 a month. He encountered computers during a trip to Seattle as an interpreter for Chinese and American businessmen. With some friends he created “China Pages,” which established websites for small businesses, and then headed an information technology company established by a department of the Chinese government.

However, in 1999 he quit and started, a business-to-business marketplace for small and medium-sized Chinese enterprises, backed by $60,000 from 18 friends. By 2002, it had reached 1 million users and acquired investment from Goldman Sachs and SoftBank. Ma also built Taobao, a retail site, as well as payment platform Alipay. In 2013, Ma stepped down as chief executive, although he remains chairman. The company went public in 2014 on the New York Stock Exchange in the largest IPO in history, raising $25 billion.

In the fashion and e-commerce sphere, Jack Ma’s “New Retail” is the company’s guiding investment principle — a strategy to redefine commerce by enabling seamless engagement between the online and offline world, by building omnichannel retail ecosystems. The company has stakes in department store chain Intime, retail big-data firm Shiji, Indonesian marketplace Tokopedia, retail platform YCloset and Southeast Asian e-commerce site Lazada.

In 2017, Fortune ranked Ma second on its World's 50 Greatest Leaders list. In 2014, he was ranked as the 30th most powerful person in the world in an annual ranking published by Forbes and in May 2009, Time magazine listed Ma as one of the world’s 100 most powerful people.

As of 2018, Ma is worth $40.9 billion.





2013 - Present



Chief Executive

1999 - 2013


Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business

Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business

Hangzhou Normal University

Hangzhou Normal University

Vital Statistics

10 September 1964


Member since

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What is The BoF 500?

The people shaping the global fashion industry, curated by the editors of The Business of Fashion, based on nominations and on-the-ground intelligence from around the world.