Alibaba: Jack Ma’s businesses are under huge pressure right now. But the co-founder of China’s most successful tech empire and legendary billionaire entrepreneur hasn’t been heard from in months.
Ma hasn’t made a public appearance or social media post since late October, just over a week before a much anticipated stock market listing of Alibaba’s (BABA) financial affiliate, Ant Group, was blocked at the last minute by Chinese regulators.
BEIJING: Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s absence from public view in the past two months, including missing the final episode of a TV show on which he was to appear as a judge, has fueled social media speculation over his whereabouts amid a Chinese regulatory clampdown on his sprawling business empire.
China’s highest-profile entrepreneur has not appeared in a public setting since a late October forum in Shanghai where he blasted China’s regulatory system in a speech that put him on a collision course with officials, resulting in the suspension of a $37 billion IPO of Alibaba’s Ant Group fintech arm.
An Alibaba spokeswoman told on Monday that the change was due to a scheduling conflict, declining further comment.
While news coverage of Ma’s absence from public view triggered speculation on Twitter, which is blocked in China, it was not a significant trending topic on social media in mainland China, where sensitive topics are subject to censorship.
Chinese regulators have zeroed in on Ma’s businesses since his October speech including launching an antitrust probe into Alibaba and ordering Ant to shake up its lending and other consumer finance businesses including the creation of a separate holding company to meet capital requirements.
“I think he’s been told to lay low,” said Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based tech consultancy BDA China. “This is a pretty unique situation, more linked to the sheer scale of Ant and the sensitivities over financial regulation,” he said.
Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listed shares fell 2.15 per cent on Monday.