Chinese Tycoon Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and Ant Group, has resurfaced after three months. As a result Alibaba shares jumped 7% in pre-market trading, later going up more than 8%. Ma had not been seen in public since his speech last October at a conference in Shanghai, in which he criticized financial regulators and banks in China.
But Ma has yet to return to social media as of this posting.
The increase in Alibaba stock clearly shows how much investors see Mr. Ma as integral to the company’s success. And if he were to actually be “purged” in some way by the Chinese government then international investors might be scared off from other Chinese firms too. Like with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, the business leaders themselves are often equated with their respective firms’ ability to grow.
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The 57 year old Ma is worth an estimated $58.4 billion according to Forbes. He is a philanthropist and through his Jack Ma Foundation helped the world during the Corona virus crisis, distributing millions of masks the world. He also donated 2,000 ventilators to New York area hospitals.
Back in October he spoke out against China’s financial and business policies. He criticized the country’s financial regulators and state-owned banks, accusing the Chinese system of “stifling business innovation.” Jack Ma also called for reforms and compared the way that his country’s banks are operated to an old age club.
Mr. Ma’s absence was first noticed last November when he very publicly failed to appear on the televised finale of his own contest “Africa’s Business Heroes,” a sort of star born to young African entrepreneurs. The organization had promoted the fact that Mr. Ma would make a personal appearance on the live program and Ma himself tweeted about his excitement over the show.
He then disappeared.
Meet the 10 finalists who will vie for two grand prizes totaling US$4 million in investment at the grand finale of the 2021 Jumpstarter competition in Hong Kong. #Jumpstarter2021 https://t.co/QmZdAHcJZR
— Alibaba Group (@AlibabaGroup) January 18, 2021
His absence raised a great deal of speculation about what may have happened to him. Rumors included the possibility that Ma was under some sort of house arrest.
But now, according to a report from a news site in, Ma’s home province, Zhejiang Province in eastern China, he gave a live speech via a video feed to 100 local rural teachers earlier today.
In the 50 second video jack Ma says, “Recently, my colleagues and I have been studying and thinking. We made a firmer resolution to devote ourselves to education philanthropy. Working hard for rural revitalization and common prosperity is the responsibility for our generation of businessmen.”
There was, of course, no mention of his three month long absence. It was also not clear where he was located at the time of the video. So speculation and conspiracy theories about what is actually happening to Jack Ma will continue for the time being.