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The backstory: Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma, who co-founded Alibaba Group, actually used to be a teacher. He was an English teacher for a few years before getting Alibaba off the ground in 1999. With Alibaba quickly becoming a giant in the e-commerce space, though, Ma is better known as a businessman. At one point, he was the richest man in China. After 20 years at the company, he retired from Alibaba back in 2019., and stepped away from the board in 2020.
More recently: Ma has been a bit of a recluse over the past few years since China’s regulatory crackdown on private businesses in 2020. He actually ended up leaving China for a year, spending a lot of that time overseas in Tokyo. But, in March, he came home to China. In April, he was appointed an honorary professor at the University of Hong Kong.
The development: Now, China’s best-known businessman has been invited to a visiting professor position at Tokyo College, which is run by the University of Tokyo. The contract ends in October, but there’s potential for annual renewal here. Ma is returning to his teaching roots, expected to advise on research and also give lectures on management and business start-ups. Some of that research is going to deal with sustainable agriculture and food development.
“Jack is no longer involved in the day-to-day running of the company after his retirement, but his views and opinions still carry weight and have influence behind the scenes,” said Brian A. Wong, a former Alibaba executive.
“We expect the contribution of visiting professor Ma mainly in the following three areas.
- To provide advice and support to the major research topics of Tokyo College.
- To conduct joint research and projects with UTokyo’s researchers, especially in the field of sustainable agriculture and food production.
- To share his rich experience and pioneering knowledge on entrepreneurship, corporate management and innovation, etc. with UTokyo students and faculty through seminars,” said Tokyo College.