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Is 48 Too Old To Be Working?

By Claire Gordon

Baby boomers aren't retiring. Recession-battered savings, and the prospect of a decades-long retirement, have left them clinging to their jobs, keeping our nation's youth out of the workforce and forever stunting the younger generation's career potential.

That's the story we often hear. But that's not the story of Jack Ma, the 48-year-old CEO/billionaire of China's largest e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba Group, who announced Tuesday that he was stepping down in the spring and taking up the mantle of chairman.

He wrote in an email to employees:

I want to encourage our young leaders to step forward to ensure a smooth transition. At 48, I am no longer 'young' for the Internet business. The next generation of Alibaba people are better equipped to manage an Internet ecosystem like ours. I believe they understand the future better than I do.

Although he's a few years shy of 50, Ma is convinced that he no longer has sufficient pluck to steer the ship. "When I was 35, I was so energetic and fresh-thinking," he said, "I had nothing to worry about."

The news comes less than a week after Ma announced the most serious restructuring in his company's 13 years. He decided to break up the group into 25 units, to ensure that it can keep pace with the e-commerce industry. Ma emphasized that the move would keep the management team intact, reported TechCrunch, but in light of Ma's retirement plans, any manager over 50 may suddenly feel a little less than welcome.

Ma has lots of interests to fill up his post-Alibaba decades, as he told Bloomberg Businessweek: tai chi, traditional Chinese medicine, environment protection, and private equity investment, to name a few.

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