Alibaba billionaire founder Jack Ma is ‘lying low’ after a roller coaster year in which China cracked down on his tech empire

Jack Ma
Jack Ma.

  • Jack Ma is “fine,” an Alibaba executive said after the Chinese billionaire’s tumultuous year.
  • China pulled Ma’s record-breaking Ant IPO last fall after he publicly criticized the nation’s banking system.
  • Alibaba received a $2.8 billion antitrust fine, signaling an even greater crackdown on Ma’s tech empire.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is “lying low right now” after the Alibaba and Ant Group founder had a whirlwind year that led to a pulled multi-billion-dollar IPO and a heavier regulatory crackdown.

Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai told CNBC Tuesday that Ma is “fine” and “doing very very well.” Tsai said he talks to him every day and said Ma has taken up painting.

Tsai did say it was important to separate what is going on with Ma and what’s happening with Alibaba at the moment. The executive also pushed back on the notion that Ma has “an enormous amount of power,” given the fact that the billionaire left Alibaba in 2019.

Ma’s Ant Group was once lauded as a disruptor in the booming fintech industry, and the company enjoyed massive growth thanks to little regulatory oversight in China.

The fintech company was poised to launch a $35 billion initial public offering in the fall of 2020 until Ma publicly criticized the nation’s lending methods and financial system at a conference. Chinese authorities stepped in and pulled the IPO, and reports later surfaced that Chinese President Xi Jinping personally instructed authorities to look into Ant following Ma’s comments.

The company was then ordered to restructure its business and “return to its payment origins.” And now, Ant will start running a new consumer banking company with greater oversight from the state.

Ant’s pulled IPO coincided with China’s new anticompetitive rules to rein in its homegrown tech companies. China also fined Alibaba $2.8 billion in April over concerns that it was abusing its dominant position in the online market.

The company said it “accepts the penalty with sincerity.”

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