The man behind China’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba has announced his retirement.

The man, Jack Ma plans to retire from the e-commerce giant on Monday to devote his time to philanthropy focused on education, he told the New York Times in an interview.

Ma was an English teacher before starting Alibaba in 1999 and built it into a multibillion-dollar internet colossus, becoming one of the world's richest men and a revered figure in his homeland.

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His own worth has soared along with that of the company, which has added cloud computing, films and e-payments to its growing portfolio and was valued at $420.8 billion when the stock market closed on Friday.

Ma told The New York Times that he plans to step down from the company on Monday -- his 54th birthday -- referring to his departure as "the beginning of an era" rather than an end.

Ma, who gave up the title of CEO in 2013, said he now planned to devote his time and fortune to education.

He is among China's richest men with a net worth of around $40 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The way he chose to make the announcement was unusual. The New York Times is blocked in China by Communist Party censors and there was no official statement from Alibaba on Saturday, reports AFP.

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