Jack Ma, the billionaire cofounder of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and one of China’s wealthiest people, is now living in Japan, the Financial Times reported Tuesday, a rare update on the billionaire as he’s largely faded from the public eye since 2020 after his home country clamped down on his business empire.
Ma and his family have resided in Tokyo over the past six months, sources told the Financial Times.
The 58-year-old has also made several visits to Israel and the United States in recent months, according to the newspaper.
The former executive chairman of Alibaba, Ma also headed the financial technology company Ant Group, which was set to go public in 2020 in the largest initial public offering ever before Chinese authorities pulled the plug on the IPO shortly after Ma criticized the authoritarian government’s treatment of private business, and then pursued an unprecedented regulatory crackdown on Ant Group and Alibaba.
Ma entirely disappeared from public view from October 2020 to early 2021, sparking concerns about whether authorities detained the billionaire, and has left few breadcrumbs about his whereabouts since, save for sparse reports of sightings across Europe and Hong Kong over the past year.
We estimate Ma to be worth $22.2 billion, making him the 67th richest person in the world and sixth wealthiest Chinese national. Ma’s fortune peaked at $66.6 billion in October 2020 when Alibaba shares traded at an all-time high. Ma was formerly China’s wealthiest man, a title now held by beverage mogul Zhong Shanshan.
Among the most prominent industrialists in communist China, Ma’s fall from grace coincided with Chinese President Xi Jinping firmly sticking by his controversial “zero-Covid” pandemic policies far stricter than other economic powers’ approaches. Ma plans to cede control of Ant Group, the Wall Street Journal reported in July, and sources told the Times the billionaire has recently refocused his energy into sustainability efforts.
Ma “got too big for his britches, both in independent speech as well as in actual financial power,” Andrew Nathan, a Chinese policy professor at Columbia University, told Forbes last January. Nathan said at the time Ma’s removal from prominence is evidence of the Chinese Communist Party “reasserting its absolute power.”
Jack Ma stays in Tokyo during China’s tech crackdown (Financial Times)
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