Zee Special: Curious case of missing Chinese billionaire, who is Jack Ma?

NEW DELHI: Chinese business tycoon Jack Ma is a tech billionaire and the founder of the behemoth Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. Jack Ma owns the E-commerce giant Alibaba and is a stakeholder at Alipay – its sister company which is an e-payment portal. 

With an estimated net worth of USD 25 billion, Jack Ma is also the richest man in China. Jack Ma holds a 7.8% stake in Alibaba and a 50% stake in Alipay. Jack Ma, whose rags to riches story continues to motivate millions of young entrepreneurs across the globe, was born in Hangzhou, located in the south-eastern part of China. 

He was born and raised along with an elder brother and a younger sister during the rise of communist China and its isolation from the Western regions. His parents were traditional Musicians-Storytellers and had difficulties in making the two ends meet. 

Former US president Richard Nixon’s visit to Hangzhou in 1972 improved the situation of tourism in his home-town and Jack didn’t want to spare this opportunity. Since he knew the importance of the English language – one’s gateway to the world – Jack spent his early mornings riding on his bike to a nearby park, giving English tours to foreigners for free. 

It was during this time, that he met a foreign girl who gave him the nickname ‘Jack’ because his name was hard to spell for her. Jack Ma later co-founded the Alibaba Group, which started as an e-commerce company and then transcended into a multinational tech conglomerate. 

Formerly an English teacher, Ma founded Alibaba.com in 1999 with 17 co-founders in a small apartment in Hangzhou city of eastern China. After graduating from Hangzhou Normal University with English, in 1994, Ma founded his first company, the Haibo Translation Agency which provided English translation and interpretation. He wanted to join the Harvard Business School for higher education, but his application was rejected multiple times. 

While Alibaba.com was a business-to-business online marketplace, Ma launched Taobao in 2003, which was a consumer-to-consumer e-commerce website. From its humble beginnings, Alibaba group has gone on to become the most valuable company in Asia, with over 100,000 employees and has diversified into financial services, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and even entertainment. 
 
On his 55th birthday in September 2019, Ma stepped down as Alibaba chairman and handed over the reins of the company to his hand-picked successor Daniel Zhang. Ma continues to be on the board of the company. However, in the past one year, Jack Ma has cut his stake in Alibaba Group to 4.8 per cent from 6.4 per cent and cashed out nearly $9.6 billion. In September 2014, the Alibaba IPO on the New York Stock Exchange set a record as the world’s biggest public stock offering, raising $25 billion. 
 
The Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have donated millions of PPEs, masks and other medical supplies to the US, Europe, and Africa to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.  

Alibaba founder Jack Ma has not been on the best of terms with the Chinese government and has been missing for quite some time. His absence from public view in the past two months, including his disappearance in the final episode of a TV show on which he was to appear as a judge, has fuelled 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.

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