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Alibaba's Zhang prepares to step from Jack Ma's shadow

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11th-Sep-2018       
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AFP, Shanghai :
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 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", and analysts say he is more than up to the task.
Hailing from the commercial hub of Shanghai, Zhang studied finance at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.  He was a senior manager at global auditor Price Waterhouse Coopers and chief financial officer of a Chinese online games company before joining Alibaba in 2007 as CFO of its main online marketplace Taobao.  Zhang is credited with building Alibaba's Tmall business-to-consumer platform into one 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.
Launched in 2009 as China's answer to the US "Black Friday", "Singles' Day" last year saw more than $25 billion worth of goods snapped up on Alibaba platforms, up nearly 40 percent year-on-year.
Billions of dollars more were boughts via Alibaba's e-commerce rivals, who have joined in.

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