56-year-old billionaire founder of “the Amazon of China”, Alibaba, and Ant Group, Jack Ma, hasn’t been seen publicly in over two months. Ma had been in the limelight as China began clamping down on his consortium. This past December, Chinese watchdogs initiated an antitrust investigation into Alibaba, the country’s biggest e-commerce company. A month earlier in November, China rolled out regulations that halted what would have been a yuge IPO for Ant Group, Ma’s fintech company.
The new ordinances came just weeks after Ma dissed China’s financial regulatory system at a Shanghai conference. Mr. Ma reportedly spurned the global financial regulations used by China as “an old people’s club” and said that “we can’t use yesterday’s methods to regulate the future.” Alibaba & Tencent v.s. China
Blair Silverberg, the CEO of the debt-financing startup Capital, said the rules were introduced “so the government can assert its supremacy over Jack Ma.”
In November, Ma was supplanted as a judge on the African talent show he founded, “Africa’s Business Heroes.” An Alibaba representative said Ma could no longer be on the judging panel for the show’s finale, which was filmed in November but has not yet been broadcasted, “due to a scheduling conflict.”
Hitherto, Ma was China’s richest man, with a fortune eclipsing $60 billion. Is that good? Ma’s net worth has dropped almost $12 billion since November as China rigidfied the rules for the fintech industry. Ma is now worth $50.6 billion, making him the fourth-richest person in China. Yikes: China’s Economy is Set to Become the World Leader Within a Decade
As theories about Ma’s whereabouts spread, a prediction about Ma from another billionaire Chinese businessman recirculated on social media. In a video interview in August 2019, Guo Wengui, who hightailed it out of China as a fugitive in 2014 and has described himself as a whistleblower exposing corruption in the country, said Ma would likely end up in jail or dead in the next year because China wanted to “take back” Ma’s lucrative Ant Group.
Last week, the Chinese government ordered Ant Group, which owns Alipay, China’s largest digital-payment platform, to reign in its operations after expressing concerns that its corporate governance was “not sound.”