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Jack Ma's disappearing act fuels speculation about billionaire's whereabouts

TechnologyJan 04, 2021 09:00AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma speaks at VivaTech fair in Paris

BEIJING (Reuters) - Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) 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.

The Financial Times reported on Friday that Ma was replaced as a judge in the final episode in November of a game show for entrepreneurs called Africa's Business Heroes.

An Alibaba spokeswoman told Reuters 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% on Monday.

(Corrects sixth paragraph to show operational restructuring of Ant includes creation of a separate holding company)

Jack Ma's disappearing act fuels speculation about billionaire's whereabouts
 

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Comments (11)
Jason Zou
Jason Zou Jan 04, 2021 8:27PM ET
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Sqare Head Ma is lost in squeezing every penny out of average people for the capitalists or investers if for a better sound, around world to the point challenging the authorities.
Not A Trader
Not A Trader Jan 04, 2021 8:27PM ET
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Are you peddling the China gov narrative?
Robert Sharp
Robert Sharp Jan 04, 2021 2:55PM ET
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What's the normal time spent in a re-education camp? Is it similar to rehab?
Man Up
Man Up Jan 04, 2021 2:55PM ET
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18 years in jail
Nabin Aryal
Nabin Aryal Jan 04, 2021 2:04PM ET
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should buy Alibaba stock or not ?
Mohammad Rafiq
Mohammad Rafiq Jan 04, 2021 12:31PM ET
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Trump don't have to do anything China doing it for Trump punishing Chinese companies for better deals with .....
Unoqueva Alguno
Unoqueva Alguno Jan 04, 2021 10:08AM ET
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building a Jack Ma bot for replacing the real one.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Jan 04, 2021 10:05AM ET
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He is in a free ccp ‘re-education’ camp.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Jan 04, 2021 10:01AM ET
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He is a ‘re-education’ camp. He’ll come out and thank ccp for the free ‘education’. Ccp is the best at giving free ‘education’.
JNUG Fiend
JNUG Fiend Jan 04, 2021 9:35AM ET
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Buy BABA while it's cheap!
Marco cuevas
Marco cuevas Jan 04, 2021 9:14AM ET
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one ugly dude.
Ali Abdul
Ali Abdul Jan 04, 2021 9:14AM ET
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Thats communist for you, no freedom at all! On top of that the Chinese people are just sheeps led by cruel leader!
Shakil Zaman
Shakil Zaman Jan 04, 2021 8:19AM ET
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China acting like China. Garbage country.
Marco cuevas
Marco cuevas Jan 04, 2021 8:19AM ET
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Bob Collins  What do you mean allowed, got voted in...by a margin of 7 million let that sink in for a bit...have a nice day.
 
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