Alibaba founder Jack Ma is reportedly “laying low” after suspicions that he has been missing came to light as Chinese regulators continue to crack down on his ever-growing business empire.
The 56-year-old billionaire, who recently slipped to China’s third-richest, was last seen in public in October when he criticized the country’s financial regulatory system at a conference in Shanghai.
Ma reportedly dismissed the system as “an old people’s club,” saying that “yesterday’s methods cannot be used to regulate the future.”
“What we need is to build a healthy financial system, not systematic financial risks,” Ma said, according to CNN. “To innovate without risks is to kill innovation. There’s no innovation without risks in the world.”
Days after the conference, Beijing reportedly summoned Ma and executives of Ant Group, Alibaba’s financial affiliate, for “regulatory interviews.” What came after is a months-long crackdown.
Ant Group was accused of edging out rivals and forced to overhaul a large part of its business. Its initial public offering (IPO), which was scheduled in November, was also blocked.
Meanwhile, Alibaba was accused of monopolistic behavior. In late December, Chinese regulators announced that an anti-trust investigation is underway.
Ma also disappeared from “Africa’s Business Heroes,” an African TV show he founded. He was replaced as a judge and will not appear in the upcoming finale, according to the Financial Times.
— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) January 5, 2021
An Alibaba spokesperson said Ma will no longer be on the judging panel “due to a scheduling conflict,” according to Business Insider. When asked about the tycoon’s whereabouts, the spokesperson said, “We do not have anything to add beyond that.”
However, a person familiar with the matter refuted speculations that Ma is missing. Instead, the billionaire is only laying low, the source told CNBC.
Ma is reportedly in Hangzhou, the seat of Alibaba’s headquarters. When he reappears in public remains unclear.
“He is being less visible purposefully,” CNBC’s David Faber reported. “And you can expect that that will continue to be the case for some time.”
Feature Image Screenshot via Alibaba Group