Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba, is reportedly living in Japan after he disappeared from public after a Chinese government crackdown. Here's a timeline of his fall from grace.




  • In Business
  • 2022-11-30 16:42:55Z
  • By Business Insider
jack ma ant group alibaba
jack ma ant group alibaba  
  • Jack Ma clashed with Chinese regulators, who then cracked down on his companies Alibaba and Ant Group.

  • Ma, who was once China's richest man, then disappeared from public view.

  • The Financial Times reported on Tuesday that he has been living in Japan for six months.

  • CNBC reported that a source said that Ma was deliberately lying low, and was not missing.

Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire founder Alibaba and Ant Group, has reportedly been living in Japan for six months after he disappeared from public view after a Chinese crackdown on his businesses.

Ma became the richest man in China through his highly successful companies, as well as a well-known face across China and in the global business world.

But China started to cracked down on his empire two years ago when he criticized its regulators, launching an investigation into Alibaba, the e-commerce giant, and halting the IPO of Ant Group, his fintech company.

Ma was not seen in public for months, leading to rumors that he was missing, before he made a few appearances and sightings.

The Financial Times then reported on Tuesday that he has been living in Japan for six months.

Here's a timeline of Ma's rise and fall.

Ma, who was born with the name Ma Yun - was born on September 10, 1964, in Hangzhou, southeastern China.

jack me alibaba ant group
jack me alibaba ant group  

 Source: 60 MinutesUSA Today

Ma was rejected for more than a dozen jobs before starting to work as an English teacher, and said in 2016 that he had been rejected from Harvard 10 times.

jack ma alibaba
jack ma alibaba  

Source: Business Insider

He founded Alibaba in 1999. It grew to become the world's largest B2B e-commerce marketplace in the world, and has the world's largest shopping event.

The logo of Alibaba Group is seen at the company
The logo of Alibaba Group is seen at the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, China.Reuters  

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider

Alibaba's 2014 IPO was at the time the largest in history.

alibaba jack ma NYSE
alibaba jack ma NYSE  

Source: NYSE

The IPO also made Ma the richest person in China, with a net worth of around $25 billion at the time.

jack ma
jack ma  

Source: Business Insider

Ma's wealth has grown since, but he has dropped to the fourth-richest man in China, as other people eclipsed even his net worth of some $50 billion.

Source: Bloomberg Billionaires Index

Ma founded Ant Group, formerly called Ant Financial, in 2014. The company is an affiliate of Alibaba, and owns digital payment platform Alipay.

Ant Group
Ant Group  

On October 24 2020, when Ant Group was gearing up for an IPO, Ma criticized China's financial regulatory system, saying China was following global rules that are part of "an old people's club."

As Business Insider's Katie Canales previously reported, Ma said that the rules that govern global banking aren't well-suited for Chinese tech innovation.

He said: "We can't use yesterday's methods to regulate the future."

Ma appeared on a livestream for the launch of a shopping event a few days later, which appeared to be his last public event for months.

Source: The Guardian

On November 2 2020, China introduced new regulations that halted the Ant Group IPO.

Ant Group
Ant Group  

The IPO was expected to raise $37 billion, making it the largest in history.

But, a week after Ma's criticisms of the regulatory system, China introduced new regulations for online lending that disqualified Ant Group from making an IPO.

As The Guardian noted, analysts interpreted China's decision as a warning to Ma.

Bill Bishop, the author of the China-focused newsletter Sinocism, then wrote: "The party has once again reminded all private entrepreneurs that no matter how rich and successful you are it can pull the rug out from under your feet at any time."

 

The Wall Street Journal reported that Ma offered to give parts of Ant Group to the Chinese government when meeting them on November 2 2020, but China still went ahead with the rule change.

jack ma xi jinping
jack ma xi jinping  

Sources told the Journal that Ma told regulators: "You can take any of the platforms Ant has, as long as the country needs it."

And later in November, Ma was replaced as a judge on final episode of a talent show he founded, "Africa's Business Heroes," the Financial Times reported.

The FT noted that Ma's photo was removed from the show's webpage and he wasn't included in the promotional video.

An Alibaba spokesperson blamed scheduling conflicts: "Due to a schedule conflict Mr Ma could no longer be part of the finale judge panel of Africa's Business Heroes earlier this year (2020)."

And an Alibaba spokesperson told Business Insider that they had nothing else to add when asked about Ma's whereabouts: "We do not have anything to add beyond that."

On December 23 2020, Chinese regulators launched an antitrust investigation into Alibaba. Ma still owns a 8.9% stake in the company.

alibaba jack ma
alibaba jack ma  

Chinese regulators said they were investigating Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd over "suspected monopolistic practices".

 

And on December 28, China told Ant Group to limit its ambitions and focus on payment services instead of insurance or wealth management.

Ant Group said in a statement that it would establish a "rectification working group" to do as the regulator asked.

CNBC reported in January 2021 that sources said Ma was deliberately lying low, and was not missing.

A person familiar with the matter told CNBC's David Faber that Ma was deliberately staying out of the spotlight.

Ma visited Ant Group's headquarters in May 2021 in a rare public appearance.

Reuters reported that Ma visited the headquarters in Hangzhou, China, for the annual company holiday that celebrates staff.

He made a few other public appearances in the following months.

Reports in October 2021 said Ma had travelled to Spain in his first overseas trip for over a year.

Jack Ma
Jack Ma's superyacht Zen is anchored by Mallorca Island coast, Spain October 21, 2021  

Hong Kong outlets South China Morning Post and East Week reported on Ma's Spanish trip.

Chinese state media reported in May that a person with the surname Ma was being investigated, leading to rumors that it was Jack Ma and billions being wiped from Alibaba's market value. It turned out to not be Jack Ma, and the price rebounded.

The fallout showed how investors were still spooked about how China's government can crack down.

His company's suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Ma has remained a billionaire.

China's strict COVID-19 policies hammered his company's values, causing his net worth to plunge, but still keeping him a billionaire.

Forbes said that as of Wednesday, Ma still had a net worth of more than $22 billion.

A new report from the Financial Times on Tuesday said Ma had been living in Tokyo, Japan for six months.

Jack Ma in 2015.
Jack Ma in 2015.  

The Financial Times report cited people with direct knowledge of his whereabouts.

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