Billionaire Alibaba founder Jack Ma has not been seen in public for over two months, as the Chinese government has cracked down on his businesses.
Last month, regulators in China where Ma’s businesses are based, launched an antitrust investigation into Alibaba, after implementing new regulations that blocked Ma from hosting an initial public offering for his fintech company, Ant Group.
It is rumored that the regulations were targeted specifically at Ma, and in response to his criticisms of regulators at a conference in October, just a month before the regulations were enacted.
At the conference in Shanghai late last year, Ma reportedly called regulators “an old people’s club” and said, “We can’t use yesterday’s methods to regulate the future.”
Blair Silverberg, CEO of debt-financing startup Capital told Business Insider that the new regulations were introduced “so the government can assert its supremacy over Jack Ma.”
In November, Ma was replaced as a judge on the African talent show he founded, “Africa’s Business Heroes,” according to the Financial Times.
Until the recent government crackdown on his businesses, Ma was the richest man in China. He once had a net worth of $60 billion, but in the few months since he criticized the government, he and his businesses have lost over $12 billion in value.
Last year, Guo Wengui, a persecuted Chinese billionaire who became a fugitive and fled the country in 2014, predicted that the Chinese government would be cracking down on Ma and his businesses soon. Wengui predicted that Ma would end up either dead or in jail after his relationship with the government soured.
CNBC’s David Faber reported on Tuesday that Ma is alive and well, citing unknown anonymous sources and giving very few details. The anonymous sources said that he is “laying low” during this difficult time, but considering the long history of the country imprisoning or executing wealthy entrepreneurs, many people are still concerned that something could be wrong.
Ma is a global ambassador for Chinese business and is often listed as one of the world’s most powerful people, with Forbes ranking him 21st on its “World’s Most Powerful People” list.
In 2017, Ma was ranked second in the annual “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” list by Fortune. In September 2018, he announced that he would retire from Alibaba and pursue educational work, philanthropy, and environmental causes.
In 2019, Forbes named Ma in its list of “Asia’s 2019 Heroes of Philanthropy” for his work supporting underprivileged communities in China, Africa, Australia, and the Middle East.
Earlier this year, Ma donated one million face masks and 500,000 virus test kits to the United States as the country was struggling with supplies at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
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