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By Verne Kopytoff
Jack Ma, co-founder of Chinese online retailer Alibaba Group, likes to tell anyone listening that his company faced slim odds as a startup.
“We are a very lucky company,” he recalled during a talk at Stanford University in 2011. “There was no chance that we would survive. I don’t have any background, rich father, or strong uncles.”
Today, Alibaba is an e-commerce colossus that is roughly the equivalent of eBay, PayPal, and Amazon.com combined. On Tuesday, it filed for an initial public offering that could be the largest in U.S. history. Ma, a former school teacher and English translator, stepped down as Alibaba’s chief executive last year to, as he put it, leave room for younger talent that is more in tune with…
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