Man who turned Jack Ma's 'tractor' into 'Boeing 747'

Sep 11, 2018, 09:26 IST | Agencies

Ma announced on Monday that in exactly one year he will hand the executive chairmanship of Alibaba's board to Zhang, CEO since 2015. Outwardly at least, their differences could not be more stark

Man who turned Jack Ma's 'tractor' into 'Boeing 747'
Jack Ma and Daniel Zhang. Pics/AFP

Both in personality and skillset, Alibaba's Daniel Zhang will herald a new era for the Chinese e-commerce giant when he takes over full leadership from charismatic founder Jack Ma.

Ma announced on Monday that in exactly one year he will hand the executive chairmanship of Alibaba's board to Zhang, CEO since 2015. Outwardly at least, their differences could not be more stark. Former English teacher Ma, 54, has become a globally recognised figure through his constant travel and playful antics such as impersonating Michael Jackson at a company event last year.

Zhang, 46, on the other hand, is a mild-mannered accountant with a calm, collected demeanour. But Zhang is routinely referred to by Chinese media as the man who transformed Ma's sturdy little "tractor" into a "Boeing 747".

He was a senior manager at global auditor Price Waterhouse Coopers before joining Alibaba in 2007 as CFO of its online marketplace Taobao. Zhang is credited with building Alibaba's Tmall business-to-consumer platform into one of the group's most successful arms, and creating the annual November 11 "Singles' Day" online shopping bonanza, China's biggest retail day of the year.

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