Alibaba's flamboyant Jack Ma steps down

Jack Ma, Alibaba's charismatic co-founder, steps down on Tuesday (September 10).

His cult status as China's most famous capitalist leaves big shoes for the next chairman, Daniel Zhang, to fill.

Zhang's main challenge will be to find new areas for growth when e-commerce has slowed sharply.

As Ma holds a typically flamboyant farewell bash -- this Michael Jackson musical number is one from his past repertoire -- investors are looking for signs of how involved he'll remain in the day-to-day running of Alibaba.

It's rare for the founder of such a tech juggernaut to retire early.

He was a teacher when he founded the firm in an apartment 20 years ago.

It's now Asia's most valuable listed company, worth 460 billion dollars.

Ma, who's retiring on his 55th birthday, will remain a member of its governing partnership, which has 38 members.

He plans to keep mentoring management, but also to devote time to education and philanthropy.

His journey wasn't without setbacks.

Ma struggled to expand Alibaba internationally -- and failed in a $1.2 billion bid to acquire MoneyGram.

Alibaba's Taobao, meanwhile, is on a U.S. list of 'notorious markets' as a haven for counterfeit luxury goods.

And Ma drew criticism this year for urging employees to work nights and weekends, sparking a debate about work culture in China.

Zhang, a softly spoken accountant, will be quite a contrast.

But last week Alibaba announced investments of 2.7 billion dollars in Kaola, a luxury goods online vendor, and a music streaming firm -- signs that the firm remains flexible as it looks for new strategies.