Alibaba’s executive chairman told investors at an event in the e-commerce giant’s home city of Hangzhou on Tuesday that his coming retirement had been planned for a decade. The timing of the announcement earlier this month that Mr. Ma, 54, would hand over the reins to Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang next September caught many by surprise.
Chinese government officials, he said, called him to ask “ ‘Are you crazy,’ ‘What happened?’ ‘Is it something painful?’ ‘Or some disease or what?’ I said, no!” he said during a speech at Alibaba’s headquarters. “I’ve also got rumors from outside China, saying, ‘It’s because the government wants to push you down.’ Nobody can, if you don’t want to leave, right? I know it’s nothing about the politics or government.”