8 Facts About Daniel Zhang, The Man Who’s Taking Over Jack Ma in Alibaba

Image: Nikkei Asian Review

Did you know? The most subscribed Youtuber over the last 5 years, PewDiePie, is in danger of having his throne topped.

T-Series, a YouTube channel that creates music for the largest music record label in India, currently boasts 61m subscribers (just 5m short of the king himself), and at the rate it’s going…

It’s all set to overtake within the span of mere months.

In fact, there’s actually a live video stream that keeps track of both follower bases.

Yeah, pretty unexpected stuff, but I guess that’s just life. It tends to poke you in the ass when it’s bored, and throw in random things when you don’t want it to.

But it seems that the takeover isn’t just a standalone matter as elsewhere, Jack Ma has given up his seat.

The usurper in question?

Daniel Zhang.

Image: Footprint to Africa

Yah, I know, he looks like a politician or your see-once-a-year uncle, but read on because he’s going to be the face of Alibaba soon.

(Article continues below) Xing Xing is a 34-year-old Singaporean lady who decides to meet up with an online friend she found in Facebook. But it turns out that he’s not what he seems to be: Prepare boxes of tissue and watch the saddest Singapore Facebook love story here:

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1. Who’s Daniel Zhang?

To the layman, Daniel Zhang might not ring any bells. But to a professional layman like me…

It still doesn’t ring any bells.

As such, I looked up his name to find out who he really is.

Image: Google

And so it seems that Daniel Zhang, who’s born in 1972, has previously undertaken roles as CEO of Taobao, and president of Tmall.com.



But long before that, just after he obtained a bachelor’s degree from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, he was plying his trade at PriceWaterCoopers and Arthur Andersen.

See, dreams do come true – Wise Old Man

Then why are you still broke and penniless af?

Wise old men don’t dream, you idiot. They provide dreams.


2. He’s also a wizard

Though by that, I don’t mean one of those 35-year-old guys who’ve never touched a girl and thus started calling themselves wizards. Instead, I’m talking about the financial kind.

A financial wizard.

Unbeknownst to the majority of people, the 46-year-old certified accountant has been the chief driving force behind a transformation of old-school commerce, a transition that has been quite rightly dubbed “New Retail”.

And the results show too. Since taking over, the company’s stock has increased by a whopping 87 per cent, and Alibaba now possesses a market value of around US$420 billion, overshadowing that of WeChat operator Tencent Holdings Ltd.

Plus, he even designed and pulled off mega-events such as the yearly Singles’ Day shopping bonanza.

Truly, it’s little wonder why he’s the man to take Jack Ma’s place.

Though contrary to what people believe…

3. It didn’t happen like K-Dramas

I see that disbelief on your face, and I empathise; like how could it not be out of a K-Drama right? There’s bound to be tons of politics, drama and maybe some adopted daughters or something.

But as it turns out, there’s none of that. Sorry, K-Drama fans.

Instead of forcibly usurping the throne, Jack Ma has announced that he had given up the throne voluntarily.

But hey, you might be wondering: if Daniel Zhang is already the COE – I mean, CEO, what is he taking over from Jack Ma? The status of founder? Founder can anyhowly take over one meh?

Well, no. He’s taking over as the Executive Chairman.

Here’s a business lesson: the Executive Chairman is, basically, the boss of the CEO. The CEO manage the executives who execute tasks, and the Executive Chairman kind of manage the CEO.

Yeah, so now you know the man behind a chair is actually more powderful than a Certificate of Entitlement.

4. He will only be taking over in a year’s time

According to Alibaba’s Twitter, the transition will not be instant. Instead, Jack Ma will see out the rest of his board term, and Daniel Zhang will only take over the reins one year from 10 September 2019.

Image: AlibabaGroup Twitter

No offence, but one year is a long time. Maybe by 9 September 2019, aliens would have made contact with us and started another company called Davidada.

5. He’s the next step in the legacy

With Alibaba being such a lucrative business right now, one wouldn’t expect anyone to abandon such a money-making position at the top of it all. But apparently, Jack Ma isn’t just about the 曾经拥有, but the…


“I have put a lot of thought and preparation into this succession plan for ten years,” Ma wrote in a letter to Alibaba customers and shareholders. Ten years?! Wah. “This transition demonstrates that Alibaba has stepped up to the next level of corporate governance.”

“When Alibaba was founded in 1999, our goal was to build a company that could make China and the world proud and one that could cross three centuries to last 102 years,” he wrote.

“However, we all knew that no one could stay with the company for 102 years. A sustainable Alibaba would have to be built on sound governance, culture-centric philosophy, and consistency in developing talent,” he said, adding that “no company can rely solely on its founders.”

Ma also said that due to limitations of ability and energy, “no one can shoulder the responsibilities of chairman and CEO forever.”

And so Daniel Zhang steps into the large shoes previously filled by Ma himself, although from the looks of it…

It doesn’t seem like he will have difficulty filling them up.

6. The Ideal Protege

Incidentally, it seems that Ma has been eyeing this moment right from the get-go. In fact, one could go as far as saying that Ma set the wheels in motion as far back as 2013, when he appointed Zhang to succeed him as CEO.

And if there’s anything; it seems that Ma is satisfied with his protege’s progress.

“His analytical mind is unparalleled, he holds dear our mission and vision, he embraces responsibility with passion, and he has the guts to innovate and test creative business models,” he wrote.

Image: Nikkei Asian Review

7. How did it all start?

Well, what do you know? Even Zhang’s recruitment process isn’t that of your normal person’s.

According to Ma, he had hired Zhang from Chinese gaming giant Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd in 2007. However, this had been, for lack of a better phrase, a pretty dick move, seeing how Shanda’s founder, Chen Tianqiao, was a longtime friend and prominent entrepreneur.

To make up for it, Ma headed to Chen Tianqiao’s home for dinner and apologised for the recruitment.

I wonder how Zhang felt about it all though.

Probably like how those girls feel when two guys are fighting over her.

Anyways, Zhang took over as the chief financial officer in Taobao once he was in, and the rest, as they say, was history. He converted Taobao Mall into Tmall, which turned out to be a genius masterstroke because it helped repair Alibaba’s ‘toxic’ image.

8. He’s a customary man

Zhang might’ve become really successful…

But it seems that he doesn’t forget his roots.

“Many years after he left Shanda, he still finds time to attend Shanda’s annual alumni gathering and gives a speech,” the founder said. “That’s touching.”

And there you have it, ladies.

The perfect man to marry.

If not, no worries. Some guys in Goody Feed are not married, so you can take your pick.