Alibaba Group hit with record $2.8 billion fine amid increased government scrutiny of billionaire Jack Ma’s tech empire

Jack Ma Alibaba Founder China
Jack Ma, executive chairman of the Alibaba Group.

  • Alibaba Group has been hit with a record $2.8 billion fine in China.
  • Billionaire founder Jack Ma’s tech empire has come under increased scrutiny from regulators.
  • “Alibaba accepts the penalty with sincerity,” the company said in a statement.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

China on Saturday fined Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group a record $2.8 billion for abusing its leading market position.

Alibaba Group said in a statement that the penalty came from the State Administration for Market Regulation, which had been investigating it since December.

The fine was yet another sign that Chinese regulators have taken a more critical stance towards the tech empire built by Ma, one of the country’s wealthiest moguls.

Speaking at a conference last fall, Ma made negative comments about international financial regulations. Chinese President Xi Jinping then reportedly halted a planned $37 billion initial public offering by Ant Group, another Ma company.

After the clash, Ma disappeared from public view for months. It was later reported by The Financial Times that he’d spent some of that time meeting with regulators.

The government on Saturday said Alibaba had used anti-competitive practices in its online retail market.

The fine was equal to about 4% of Alibaba’s annual sales in China, according to Xinhua News, a quasi-state media outlet. Local news reports said the company would be required for three years to complete “self-inspection” reports that it would then submit to the watchdog.

“Alibaba accepts the penalty with sincerity and will ensure its compliance with determination,” the company said Saturday in a press release.

It added: “To serve its responsibility to society, Alibaba will operate in accordance with the law with utmost diligence, continue to strengthen its compliance systems and build on growth through innovation.”

The company also published an open letter to customers, saying it had “fully cooperated” with the investigation.

“Alibaba would not have achieved our growth without sound government regulation and service, and the critical oversight, tolerance and support from all of our constituencies have been crucial to our development,” the company said.

The 18 billion yuan fine was a record for China, surpassing the $975 million fine issued to Qualcomm in 2015, as Reuters reported at the time.

Alibaba will hold a conference call on Monday to discuss the penalty.

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Cathie Wood says she sees potential in disruptive Chinese tech firms, even though their shares have tumbled recently

A Hisense chip is on display during the Appliance & Electronics World Expo (AWE) 2021 at National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai)
  • The CEO of Ark Invest said “disruptive innovation platforms” in China were now competing with those in the US.
  • Speaking at a webinar, she said she was impressed by China’s commitment to driving innovation.
  • Chinese tech stocks are down, having been sold off heavily this month in volatile trade.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Cathie Wood, the CEO of Ark Invest, said she sees growth potential in “disruptive innovation platforms” in China and that they are competing with similar ventures in the US now. Chinese tech stocks have been trending downwards recently as they face legal and regulatory pressure.

Speaking at a webinar in collaboration with Li Yimei, chief executive of China Asset Management this month, she discussed China’s commitment to innovation and said the country’s platforms have made huge progress in area such as DNA sequencing, energy storage, artificial intelligence, blockchain and robotics, especially relating to productivity, “which is good for the entire economy,” IgnitesAsia quoted Wood as saying.

Wood, through her ARK Invest exchange-traded fund, was one of the top performing asset managers of 2020, thanks in large part to her bets on disruptive technology.

She said many Chinese platforms are now close competitors to those in the US, after having caught up in recent years. “Competition in technology is a really good thing, in terms of moving the technology forward faster than otherwise would have been the case,” she said.

She said she was impressed with the government’s collaboration with the private sector, as she believes this will further the development of microchips and artificial intelligence.

Wood also said it reflected the government’s commitment to electric vehicles “I’m very impressed that China allows Tesla into the country without a local manufacturer. It is so determined to have electric vehicles proliferate throughout China,” she said.

Chinese tech shares have tumbled recently. The Hang Seng Tech index, which contains a number of big Chinese tech names such as Alibaba, Tencent, and FoxConn, is one of the worst performers from among the major indices this year, with a loss of almost 3%, versus a 1.5% gain in the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100.

Performance has been highly volatile for months, as tech stocks are impacted by legal and regulatory changes. Recently, the sector fell after news of a potential government-backed company designed to oversee tech data. Tensions between the US and China and a “Cold Tech War” were also major risk factors, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said on Monday.

Wood’s Ark Invest published a note this week saying “Chinese technology companies are caught in political crosscurrents”, referring to the developments that have been causing stocks to crash. Ark Invest believes they will only cause “short term turmoil” and said “policies might accelerate or hinder the pace of innovation for a time, but we believe self-preservation probably will bring policymakers back to both tables.”

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Justin Sun postponed a $4.6 million lunch with Warren Buffett, plowed $10 million into GameStop stock, and lost out on a $69 million NFT. Here’s a look at the crypto whiz kid.

Justin Sun Warren Buffett
  • Crypto whiz kid Justin Sun postponed a $4.6 million charity lunch with Warren Buffett.
  • The Tron boss invested $10 million in GameStop and lost out on a $69 million NFT.
  • Here are eight things to know about the 30-year-old tech entrepreneur.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Crypto whiz kid Justin Sun has shot to fame in recent years for postponing a $4.6 million charity lunch with Warren Buffett, investing $10 million in GameStop during the buying frenzy, and losing out on a $69 million NFT during a Christie’s auction.

Sun is the boss of Tron and BitTorrent, the 28th and 63rd biggest cryptocurrencies with a combined market capitalization of more than $5 billion.

Here are eight things to know about the 30-year-old tech entrepreneur:

A protégé of Alibaba founder Jack Ma

JustinSun5
Alibaba founder Jack Ma

Justin Sun is a protégé of Alibaba founder and executive chairman Jack Ma. Sun’s oldest photo on Instagram shows him receiving a certificate from Ma. “Inspired by the best to shape the future for the better,” the caption reads.

Sun was the youngest member of the inaugural class at Hupan University, a Chinese business school founded by Ma in 2015, according to the South China Morning Post. Ma recruited 30 students who he believed could revolutionize the Chinese business world. Sun wrote his thesis on the blockchain industry, titling it “The Birth of a Decentralized Internet,” SCMP said. He graduated from Hupan in 2018.

An Ivy League graduate

university of pennsylvania

Sun graduated from Peking University with a bachelor’s degree in history in 2011, according to his LinkedIn page. Peking is China’s second-best university, according to Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings. Two years later, Sun earned a master’s degree in political economy from the University of Pennsylvania, one of eight prestigious US colleges that make up the Ivy League.

 

An entrepreneur and dealmaker

BitTorrent Data Belongs To You Billboard

Sun joined Ripple Labs as a chief representative and adviser in Greater China at the end of 2013, according to his LinkedIn page. He worked at the cryptocurrency startup — which has received backing from Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and other blue-chip investors — for just over two years. Sun also founded Callme or Peiwo, China’s largest voice live-streaming app, in 2013.

In July 2017, Sun founded the Tron Foundation, a blockchain company with its own cryptocurrency that is “dedicated to building the infrastructure for a truly decentralized Internet,” his LinkedIn page states. Less than a year later, Tron acquired BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file-sharing service, for around $126 million, according to TechCrunch. Sun currently serves as CEO of Peiwo, Tron, and BitTorrent, now known as Rainberry.

 

A millennial influencer

twitter on phone

Sun has a powerful presence on social media with more than 2.2 million Twitter followers. He’s also posted pictures of himself posing with celebrities such as Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

Forbes included Sun in its 30 under 30 Asia list in 2017, and in its 30 under 30 China list from 2015 to 2017, Sun wrote on his LinkedIn page. 

A crypto advocate

FILE PHOTO: Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Etherum and Litecoin virtual currencies are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
FILE PHOTO: Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin virtual currencies are seen on motherboard in this illustration picture

Sun planned to use his meal with Buffett to convert the notorious skeptic of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies into a true believer. Buffett has said Bitcoin has “no unique value” and will ultimately become worthless, and derided it as a “delusion” and “rat poison squared.” 

Sun executed a full-court press on Buffett during their dinner in January 2020. He invited eToro founder and CEO Yoni Assia, Litecoin creator Charlie Lee, and other crypto advocates to dine with them. He also gave Buffett a smartphone loaded with bitcoin and Tron, although Buffett later said he doesn’t own any cryptocurrencies.

A controversial figure

China Flag

After Sun announced he was rescheduling his lunch with Buffett, Chinese news outlet Caixin reported he was being held in China over accusations of illegal fundraising, gambling, money laundering, and pornography activities, citing a report by the 21st Century Business Herald.

Sun dismissed the allegations on Weibo and said he was being treated for kidney stones. “The illegal network fundraising was not true,” he wrote in Mandarin, adding that Tron “actively cooperated” with authorities to comply with regulatory requirements. He added that Tron complied with laws and regulations in Singapore, where it’s located, and the money-laundering allegation was “not true.”

A meme-stock fan

gamestop line

Sun invested $10 million in GameStop and $1 million in each of AMC and the iShares Silver Trust during the meme-stock frenzy in January 2021. He told Bloomberg that the Wall Street Bets movement represented a “paradigm shift” in finance, and suggested memes are the new fundamentals for the next generation of investors.

 

A NFT proponent

5,000 everydays artwork by Beeple, which was sold at Christies auction house for $69 million
“Everydays: The First 5000 Days” by Beeple, a digital artwork sold at Christie’s auction house for $69 million.

Sun was the runner up in the record-breaking Christie’s auction of a $69 million non-fungible token (NFT) in March 2021. He tried to bid $70 million for the digital artwork after he was outbid with 20 seconds to go, but his offer wasn’t received by Christie’s systems.

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Ant Group CEO Simon Hu has resigned from the Chinese fintech giant

Ant Group CEO Simon Hu
Ant Group CEO Simon Hu.

Ant Group CEO Simon Hu has resigned for personal reasons.

Bloomberg first reported the news on Friday. The company confirmed Hu’s resignation in a statement to Insider.

“The Ant Group Board of Directors has accepted Mr. Simon Hu’s resignation request, due to personal reasons,” a representative said. “We are thankful to Simon for the efforts he made at our company.”

Ant Group is an affiliate fintech company of the Chinese retail behemoth Alibaba. It operates the Alipay digital payments network and was founded by the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.

Chairman Eric Jing will become CEO effective immediately, a source with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg.

Alibaba fell by 2.5% in premarket trading on Friday.

Hu became Ant’s CEO in December 2019 after a year working as the group’s president.

Before that, he spent four years as the CEO of Alibaba Cloud Computing. He also founded AliFinance.

Hu’s resignation comes amid increasing scrutiny of Ant by Chinese regulators.

In November, Ant’s initial public offering, set to be the biggest ever, was suspended in Shanghai and Hong Kong following a meeting between Ma and Chinese regulators.

And in late December, China’s central bank and three financial watchdogs said they would urge Ant to implement stricter financial regulations for its banking services.

In January, The Wall Street Journal reported that the group planned to restructure itself as a financial holding company overseen by China’s central bank. This would subject it to stricter regulations.

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An inside look at Hainan, ‘the Hawaii of China,’ where Jack Ma was reportedly spotted golfing at a 5-star resort in recent weeks

sun valley golf resort hainan
The Sun Valley Golf Resort in Hainan.

For three months, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma has been keeping out of the public eye as China has cracked down on his businesses.

His sole public appearance was a 50-second video appearance at the end of January, during which he made brief remarks to rural teachers from across China.

But according to a Bloomberg report, the Alibaba and Ant Group founder was spotted playing golf at the Sun Valley Golf Resort in Hainan, China, in recent weeks. The upscale resort includes a 27-hole golf course, a clubhouse, and a restaurant.

Such clubs aren’t hard to find in Hainan, the island province in southern China that’s known as “the Hawaii of China” thanks to its tropical climate, luxurious beach resorts, and golf courses.

Here’s what it’s like to vacation in Hainan.

Hainan is China’s smallest and southernmost province, made up of more than 200 islands.

hainan china

The main island is the 12,700-square-mile Hainan Island, which is home to about 9 million people and is a major tourist destination.

More than 83 million tourists visited Hainan in 2019, according to China Daily.

Hainan has been nicknamed the “Hawaii of China” because of its tropical climate, sandy beaches, and upscale hotels and golf clubs.

hainan china
A view of the city of Sanya in Hainan, China.

In recent years, the province has been trying to attract new residents and foreign investments.

In 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping designated Hainan as China’s largest free-trade zone and introduced new subsidized housing and fast-track work visas to attract new residents.

The government announced in 2018 that Americans could visit Hainan for up to 30 days without a visa.

Jack Ma, the billionaire Chinese businessman who’s been out of the public eye for three months, has reportedly been spending some time playing golf at one of Hainan’s luxurious resorts.

jack ma ant group alibaba china
Jack Ma.

Bloomberg reported on February 10 that Ma had been spotted playing at Hainan’s Sun Valley Golf Resort in “recent weeks.” Sources said he appeared to be a “golfing novice.” 

The Alibaba and Ant Group founder has reportedly been “lying low” in recent months as Chinese regulators cracked down on his businesses. Speculation on his whereabouts started when Ma failed to appear on the finale of the African talent show he created in November. In October, Ma had publicly criticized China’s banking rules.

He wasn’t seen at all for more than two months until January 20, when he made some brief remarks to rural teachers in a 50-second videoconference call. 

Representatives for Ma’s companies did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment for this story.

The Sun Valley Golf Resort where Ma was reportedly seen includes a clubhouse, a restaurant and club bar, and a sauna.

sun valley golf resort hainan
The Sun Valley Golf Resort in Hainan.

The 27-hole course was designed by JMP Golf Design Group, a company that has designed high-end courses all over the world in countries including the US, France, Japan, Malaysia, and Mexico.

The club overlooks Yalong Bay near Sanya, a city on Hainan’s southern coast.

Sanya, Hainan’s most popular tourist destination, boasts more than 25 miles of coastline, a lively city center, and plenty of luxury hotels including a St. Regis, a Ritz-Carlton, a Rosewood, and an Edition hotel.

sanya hainan

Sanya is “China’s premier beach community,” according to Lonely Planet.

One of Sanya’s most luxurious hotels is the Mandarin Oriental, where guests can stay in a variety of suites, villas, and pavilions.

mandarin oriental sanya

The hotel is situated on a protected coral bay and has three swimming pools, a swim-up cocktail bar, and a spa.

A night’s stay in March starts at about $360.

Sanya’s beaches can be particularly crowded between November and February.

sanya hainan beach

During this time period, many northern Chinese head down for a tropical vacation in the island province.

Hainan also attracts so many tourists from Russia that many of the signs and restaurant menus are written in Cyrillic in addition to Chinese and English, according to the South China Morning Post.

Sanya’s Phoenix Island, an artificial archipelago with multiple hotels, restaurants, luxury apartment buildings, a conference center, and a marina, has drawn comparisons to Dubai.

phoenix island sanya hainan
Phoenix Island in Sanya.

Phoenix Island is connected to the city by a long bridge that’s only open to guests.

It’s not uncommon to see luxury yachts on the water in Sanya.

yachts sanya hainan

In fact, Sanya’s yachting industry grew in 2020 during the pandemic, with a 28% uptick in new yacht registrations, according to the Global Times, an English-language Chinese newspaper.

Sanya’s Houhai Beach is popular with snorkelers and surfers.

sanya surfing hainan
Surfers on Houhai Beach in Sanya in December 2019.

The city of Sanya may be Hainan’s tourism mecca, but visitors are also drawn to its laid-back capital city, Haikou, its rural fishing villages, and its less developed West Coast with its tropical rainforests.

The Sun Valley Golf Resort where Ma was spotted is far from the only place to golf on Hainan. The island is home to multiple golf courses, and the temperate climate means it’s possible to play year-round.

hainan golf
A Hainan golf course.

The sport of golf is growing in China, even though Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, once dismissed it as a “sport for millionaires.”

Hainan is one of the few global destinations that’s seen a tourist revival during the pandemic – and the CEOs of luxury brands have taken notice, according to a recent Bloomberg report.

sanya hainan
Customers shop in Sanya in October 2020. O

After a 90% drop-off in tourism in the spring, Hainan saw a resurgence in the last half of 2020 that was driven mainly by domestic travelers, per Reuters. In October, 9.6 million people visited the island — more than the year before. The island has been virtually virus-free for eight months.

Luxury sales in Hainan have been “on fire” recently, John Idol, CEO of fashion holding company Capri Holdings, which owns Michael Kors and Versace, said recently on a conference call with analysts.

Patrice Louvet, the CEO of Ralph Lauren, told Bloomberg: “Hainan is a strategic priority for us. Every business is looking at it.”

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Alibaba jumps 5% after billionaire Jack Ma appeared in a 50-second videoclip after weeks of laying low

Screenshot 2021 01 20 at 09.36.57
  • Alibaba rose 5% after Jack Ma resurfaced in a videoconference on Wednesday after weeks of laying low.
  • The billionaire founder could be seen addressing 100 rural teachers across China.
  • Ma seemed to embrace themes promoted by the ruling Communist Party, according to Bloomberg.
  • Sign up here our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Alibaba shares jumped 5% at market open as founder Jack Ma resurfaced in a 50-second video clip on Wednesday after he was suspected missing for weeks.

Ma’s live-streamed video sent Alibaba’s Hong Kong shares up by as much as 8.5%. In the video, he can be seen addressing 100 rural teachers as part of a ceremony that recognizes exceptional educators in impoverished areas.

“Recently, my colleagues and I have been studying and thinking. We made a firmer resolution to devote ourselves to education philanthropy,” Ma said in the clip, according to Bloomberg. “Working hard for rural revitalization and common prosperity is the responsibility for our generation of businessmen.”

The billionaire, who is a former English teacher, seemed to embrace themes promoted by China’s Communist Party, Bloomberg said. He spoke about shrinking income disparities through a return of younger talent to rural areas.  

Read more: Goldman Sachs reveals the 8 ‘green energy majors’ that are set to shoot up in value in a sector worth trillions of dollars as the renewables race heats up 

A spokesperson for the Jack Ma Foundation told Insider Ma had participated in the event on January 20 and confirmed the authenticity of the video clip.

Ma had seemingly disappeared from public view about two months ago after he publicly snubbed China’s regulatory system, saying the nation’s rules do not help foster innovation. He even criticized regulatory decisions to enforce a set of international banking rules as an “old man’s club.” 

Soon after, China enacted new rules that clamped down on online financial lending, directly impact the lending business of Ma’s Ant Group. Regulators ordered Ant to overhaul its business and return to its origins as a payment service after officials accused the company of “turning a blind eye” to requirements

Read More: GOLDMAN SACHS: Buy these 25 stocks best-positioned to juice profits in 2021 as stimulus and vaccine progress spur economic growth

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Billionaire Jack Ma appears to have resurfaced in a quick 50-second videoconference clip, according to Chinese-owned media

Jack Ma
In October, Ma publicly criticized China’s banking rules.

Chinese billionaire businessman Jack Ma appeared during a videoconference on Wednesday after weeks of speculation about his whereabouts, according to a 50-second clip released by the Global Times, a Chinese government-owned  English-language newspaper. 

In the video call, Ma, who used to be an English teacher, spoke to 100 rural teachers across China as a part of his Jack Ma Rural Teachers Award ceremony, which recognizes outstanding teachers in impoverished and remote areas.

“Recently, my colleagues and I have been studying and thinking. We made a firmer resolution to devote ourselves to education philanthropy,” Ma said in the video, according to Bloomberg. “Working hard for rural revitalization and common prosperity is the responsibility for our generation of businessmen.”

A spokesperson for the Jack Ma Foundation told Insider that Ma participated in the online ceremony of the annual Rural Teacher Initiative event on January 20, but the time and date of the video have not been independently verified.

Questions began swirling about Ma’s whereabouts after the Alibaba and Ant Group founder failed to appear on the finale of the African talent show he created. Yahoo Finance reported on January 4 that Ma hadn’t been seen publicly in more than two months.

China has been cracking down on the tech mogul’s business empire in recent months. 

In late December, Chinese regulators launched an antitrust investigation into Alibaba, the country’s biggest e-commerce company, sometimes referred to as “the Amazon of China.” And in November, China introduced regulations that halted what would have been a massive initial public offering for Ant Group, Ma’s fintech company.

In October, the 56-year-old Alibaba founder had publicly criticized China’s financial regulatory system at a conference in Shanghai. The next month, Ma was replaced as a judge on the African talent show he founded, “Africa’s Business Heroes.” An Alibaba representative told Insider that Ma could no longer be on the judging panel, which was filmed in November but has not yet been released, “due to a scheduling conflict.”

Earlier this month, CNBC reporter David Faber said it was unlikely that Ma was “captured” by the Chinese state but that he was likely lying low in Hangzhou, where Alibaba is based. Ma stepped down as Alibaba’s chairman in 2019. But in the past, prominent businessmen including retired real-estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang and asset manager Xiao Jianhua have disappeared from public life after facing criticism from Chinese regulators, as Insider’s Allana Akhtar reported.

Until recently, Ma was China’s richest man, with a fortune of more than $60 billion. But Ma has lost billions over the past few months as China has tightened the rules for the fintech industry. Ma is now worth $52.9 billion, making him the fourth-richest person in China, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

A representative for Ant Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An Alibaba spokesperson referred Insider to the statement from the Jack Ma Foundation.

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Traders are sharing memes and desperately searching for Jack Ma’s profile on Bloomberg’s terminal to try and work out where the Chinese billionaire is

FILE - In this May 15, 2019, file photo, founder of Alibaba group Jack Ma arrives for the Tech for Good summit in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)
FILE – In this May 15, 2019, file photo, founder of Alibaba group Jack Ma arrives for the Tech for Good summit in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

  • Financial traders around the world are trying to get the scoop on Alibaba billionaire Jack Ma’s whereabouts, after media reports the tycoon hasn’t been seen in public for two months.
  • Traders are using their access to the powerful Bloomberg Terminal, which shows real-time financial data, to check out his profile, which shows his online status.
  • One trader told Business Insider that Ma’s profile has been offline for “three days at least.” His profile is now among the most-viewed on the terminal, indicating intense global trader interest in the story.
  • Ma has been conspicuously absence since the Chinese government commenced a regulatory crackdown on his businesses Alibaba and Ant Group.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The apparent disappearance of Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire and Alibaba cofounder, has provoked curiosity not just on social media but among global traders who have been searching for his profile on Bloomberg’s terminal service for clues on his whereabouts.

Ma, whose net worth stands at $51.5 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, has not been seen in public for two months. His absence comes amid a Chinese regulatory clampdown on his businesses.

Bloomberg Terminal, often touted as one of the most powerful machines in the world, is a paid service that gives its users access to a range of financial data from daily breaking news to charts, lists, and company information. It is widely used by banks, financial firms, and media outlets.

Bloomberg terminal
A Bloomberg terminal.

Bloomberg’s software is known for its powerful features – but one more light-hearted function is the “MVP” or most-viewed profile. Each trader on the terminal has a personal profile which also shows when they are online, via a green dot. Traders can also chat with each other via their profiles.

The most-viewed function lets traders see who their peers are reading and talking about on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis. Traders say this is a must for those who want to be plugged into gossip.

Amid rumors of his disappearance, the MVP of the week is currently Jack Ma, with traders around the world checking out the Alibaba billionaire’s status on the Bloomberg chat function (he remains firmly offline.)

“I have checked out his profile in the past out of curiosity and have seen him online. So it’s pretty bizarre that he hasn’t been online lately,” one trader told Business Insider on the condition of anonymity.

Jack Ma Bloomberg profile
Jack Ma’s offline status.

Jack Ma’s profile on the terminal was the second-most viewed on Wednesday, after that of Credit Suisse’ Global head of equity sales, Lucy Baldwin, Business Insider understands. Ma’s profile saw more than 700 hits as of Wednesday morning.

His profile is the third-most viewed profile this month, with his profile seeing over 2,100 hits since the start of January. And it’s the most viewed profile this week with more than 1,800 hits.

The source added that there is growing interest among the trader community on his whereabouts. “Memes, conspiracy theories as well as his offline Bloomberg profile status are being actively shared in WhatsApp groups. Everyone is interested to know where he is.”

Another trader, based in Australia, told Business Insider on the condition of anonymity that they have also checked out Ma’s profile a number of times on the Bloomberg terminal in the hope of seeing him online there. “He has been offline for the past 3 days at least. I have checked out his profile a number of times.”

Ma’s offline status on Bloomberg doesn’t give any clues on his whereabouts – “he may be on holiday,” as one trader said – but the mystery of his whereabouts has captivated the public.

On Sunday, Yahoo Finance reported that Ma hadn’t been seen publicly in more than two months. He also missed an appearance in November on a TV talent show that he had founded, The Financial Times reported.

Chinese regulators have targeted Ma’s businesses after the entrepreneur publicly criticized the country’s financial regulatory system in October 2020. Authorities subsequently yanked a $37 billion IPO for Ma’s fintech firm Ant Group in November, and Alibaba also faces an antitrust probe.

CNBC’s David Faber on Tuesday said Ma hasn’t gone missing but is lying low.

“He is being less visible, purposefully,” Faber said after noting that he has closely covered Ma and his businesses. “And you can expect for that to be the case for some time,” Faber said, citing sources.

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Jack Ma hasn’t been seen in 2 months after clashing with Chinese regulators. Here’s a look at how the Alibaba and Ant Group founder got started as a scrappy underdog and amassed a $50 billion fortune.

Jack Ma
Jack Ma.

It’s been a tumultuous few months for Jack Ma.

The billionaire Alibaba and Ant Group founder is facing a crackdown from Chinese regulators that has resulted in an antitrust investigation, a suspended IPO, and Ma losing $12 billion of his fortune in just a few months.

Now, Ma hasn’t been seen in two months, leading to reports that he’s either missing or simply laying low amid all the scrutiny.

This isn’t the first time Ma has faced adversity, however: He grew up poor in communist China, failed his university entrance exam twice, and was rejected from dozens of jobs, including one at KFC, before finding success with his third internet company, Alibaba.

Here’s how Ma got his start and made his fortune.

Jillian D’Onfro, Charles Clark, and Taylor Nicole Rogers contributed to an earlier version of this post.

Jack Ma – born Ma Yun – was born on September 10, 1964, in Hangzhou, southeastern China. He has an older brother and a younger sister.

jack ma
Jack Ma in 2014.

 Source: 60 Minutes, USA Today

 

He and his siblings grew up at a time when communist China was increasingly isolated from the West, and his family didn’t have much money when they were young.

Hangzhou china
Hangzhou, China, where Ma was raised.

 Source: 60 Minutes, USA Today

Ma was scrawny and often got into fights with classmates. “I was never afraid of opponents who were bigger than I,” he recalls in “Alibaba,” a book by Liu Shiying and Martha Avery.

Jack Ma

Source: USA Today, Business Insider

As a kid, Ma liked collecting crickets and making them fight, and was able to distinguish the size and type of cricket just by the sound it made.

alibaba Jack Ma
Ma in 2016.

Source: USA Today, Business Insider

After President Nixon visited Hangzhou in 1972, Ma’s hometown became a tourist destination. As a teenager, Ma started waking up early to visit the city’s main hotel, offering visitors tours of the city in exchange for English lessons. The nickname “Jack” was given to him by a tourist he befriended.

Richard Nixon
Richard and Pat Nixon.

Source: 60 Minutes

 

After high school, he applied to go to college – but failed the entrance exam twice. He finally passed on the third try, going on to attend Hangzhou Teachers Institute. He graduated in 1988 and started applying to as many jobs as he could.

jack ma

Source: 60 Minutes

He received more than a dozen rejections – including from KFC – before being hired as an English teacher. Ma was a natural with his students and loved his job – though he only made $12 a month at a local university.

jack ma frustrated upset alibaba

Source: Business Insider

At the World Economic Forum in 2016, Ma revealed he has been rejected from Harvard – 10 times.

Jack Ma Alibaba

Source: Business Insider

Ma had no experience with computers or coding, but he was captivated by the internet when he used it for the first time during a trip to the US in 1995. He had recently started a translation business and made the trip to help a Chinese firm recover a payment. Ma’s first online search was “beer,” but he was surprised to find that no Chinese beers turned up in the results. It was then that he decided to found an internet company for China.

alibaba jack ma

Source: Business Insider, USA Today

 

Though his first two ventures failed, four years later, he gathered 17 of his friends in his apartment and convinced them to invest in his vision for an online marketplace he called “Alibaba.” The site allowed exporters to post product listings that customers could buy directly.

FILE PHOTO: A logo of Alibaba Group is seen at the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, November 18, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song
Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou.

Source: Business Insider60 Minutes

 

Soon, the service started to attract members from all over the world. By October 1999, the company had raised $5 million from Goldman Sachs and $20 million from SoftBank, a Japanese telecom company that also invests in technology companies. The team remained close-knit and scrappy. “We will make it because we are young and we never, never give up,” Ma said to a gathering of employees.

Alibaba2

Source: Business Insider

 

He was known for maintaining a sense of fun at Alibaba. In the early 2000s, when the company decided to start Taobao, its eBay competitor, he had his team do handstands during breaks to keep their energy levels up.

The home page of Chinese e-commerce site Taobao is seen on a computer screen in Beijing, Thursday, April 11, 2019. The mother of a Chinese child model has apologized after videos of her appearing to beat her daughter appeared online, sparking outrage and debate about the country's highly competitive child modeling industry. Internet users identified the child as Niuniu, a 3-year-old girl who models clothes sold on e-commerce website Taobao. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
The home page of Chinese e-commerce site Taobao.

Source: Business Insider

When the company first became profitable, Ma gave each employee a can of Silly String to go wild with.

silly string

Source: Business Insider

In 2005, Yahoo invested $1 billion in Alibaba in exchange for about a 40% stake in the company. This was huge for Alibaba – at the time it was trying to beat eBay in China – and it would eventually be an enormous win for Yahoo too, netting it $10 billion in Alibaba’s IPO alone.

Yahoo Alibaba

Source: TechCrunch

In 2014, Ma told Bloomberg he knew Alibaba had made it big when another customer offered to pay his restaurant bill. The customer, Ma said in the interview, had left Ma a note that read: “I’m your customer of Alibaba group, I made a lot of money and I know you don’t make any money. I’ll pay the bill for you.”

jack ma

Source: Business Insider

Ma stepped down from his post as CEO in 2013, staying on as executive chairman.

Jack Ma Alibaba
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd founder Jack Ma (2nd L) poses as he arrives at the New York Stock Exchange for his company’s initial public offering (IPO) under the ticker “BABA” in New York September 19, 2014.

Source: Tech Crunch

Alibaba went public on September 19, 2014. “Today what we got is not money. What we got is the trust from the people,” Ma told CNBC at the time.

jack ma alibaba
Ma arrives at the New York Stock Exchange in 2014.

Source: CNBC, NYSE

The company’s $150 billion IPO was the largest offering for a US-listed company in the history of the New York Stock Exchange. It also made Ma the richest person in China, with an estimated worth of $25 billion at the time.

Alibaba IPO Jack Ma
Ma after his company’s initial public offering.

Source: Bloomberg

Ma’s fortune comes from his 4.2% stake in Alibaba and a 10% stake in payment-processing service Alipay, which rebranded to Ant Group in 2014.

An Alipay logo is seen at a train station in Shanghai, China February 9, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
Alipay logo is seen at a train station in Shanghai.

Source: Bloomberg

Alibaba employees threw a big party at the company’s Hangzhou headquarters to celebrate the IPO. One employee even took the party as the perfect opportunity to propose. Ma told employees at a press conference that he hopes they use their newfound wealth to become “a batch of genuinely noble people, a batch of people who are able to help others, and who are kind and happy.”

alibaba ipo

Source: QQ.com, USA Today

 

The biggest day in the calendar for Alibaba is China’s “Singles’ Day” – a retaliation to Valentine’s Day – which supposedly celebrates the country’s singletons. In 2016, the site recorded nearly $20 billion in sales in 24 hours.

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Ma looks back at a giant electronic screen showing real-time sales figures on the “Singles’ Day” online shopping festival.

Source: CNBC

In 2020, the total value of Alibaba orders placed on Singles’ Day topped $56 billion.

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Taylor Swift performs at a show to mark Alibaba’s Singles’ Day global shopping festival in 2019.

Source: CNBC

Alibaba’s success may have made Ma an extremely wealthy man, but he has made very few flashy purchases, and he still has some pretty modest hobbies. “I don’t think he has changed much, he is still that old style,” Xiao-Ping Chen, a friend of Ma, told USA Today. He likes reading and writing kung fu fiction, playing poker, meditating, and practicing​ tai chi.

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Jack Ma

Source: USA Today

His big splurge was a vineyard and a chateau in Bordeaux, France, in 2016.

italian vineyard
Ma’s vineyard not pictured.

Source: Forbes, CNBC

In March 2013, Alibaba spent a reported $49.7 million on a Gulfstream G550, mostly for Ma’s use.

gulfstream g550

Source: China Daily

One of his greatest passions is the environment. According to Fortune, Ma developed an interest in environmentalism when a member of his wife’s family became sick with an illness that Ma suspected was caused by pollution. He sits on the global board of The Nature Conservancy and spoke during a session of the Clinton Global Initiative in 2015. He has also, according to Fortune, been instrumental in funding a 27,000-acre nature reserve in China.

jack ma chelsea clinton
Chelsea Clinton, left, and Jack Ma.

Source: Fortune

Ma has largely kept his family life out of the spotlight. He married Zhang Ying, a teacher he met at school, after they graduated in the late 1980s. They have two children – a daughter and a son.

jack ma alibaba
Alibaba founder Jack Ma in January 2018.

Source: Bloomberg

In 2017, Ma made headlines after meeting President Donald Trump. Despite Trump’s protectionist attitude towards trade, Ma said China and the United States were not about to be drawn into a trade war. “Give Trump some time. He’s open-minded,” Ma told a panel at the World Economic Forum in January 2017.

Trump Jack Ma
Donald Trump with Jack Ma.

Source: Business Insider

Ma is something of a celebrity in China, and crowds of people show up to listen to him speak. The company also hosts annual talent shows, and Ma is a natural entertainer. At a company anniversary event, he dressed up as a punk rocker for a performance in front of 20,000 Alibaba employees.

jack ma

Source: 60 Minutes

Company lore has it that Ma came up with the name “Alibaba” while sitting in a San Francisco coffee shop. In “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” a secret password unlocks a trove filled with unbelievable riches. Ma’s company has, in a way, revealed the potential of small and mid-sized businesses across the globe.

alibaba jack ma

Source: Entrepreneur

Ma stepped down as Alibaba’s chairman on September 10, 2019, his 55th birthday. The company threw him a farewell party in an 80,000-seat stadium in Hangzhou, and Ma performed with other Alibaba executives.

alibaba jack ma retirement party

Source: Business Insider

Ma picked Daniel Zhang, who has been the CEO of Alibaba since 2015, to replace him as chairman. According to CNN Business, Ma decided to pivot to full-time philanthropy.

daniel zhang alibaba

Source: Business Insider, CNN Business

When the coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a halt in March 2020, Ma sourced and shipped N95 face masks and COVID-19 testing kits to over 100 countries dealing with shortages, including the US.

jack ma coronavirus donations

Source: Business Insider

In May, SoftBank announced that Ma would resign from the troubled investment fund’s board of directors.

FILE PHOTO: SoftBank Group Corp Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son speaks during their joint news conference with Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda (not pictured) in Tokyo, Japan October 4, 2018.  REUTERS/Issei Kato
Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s chairman and CEO.

“Stepping down from SoftBank Group’s Board, I believe, and he said to me actually, was something that he decided on his own,” SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said during the firm’s earnings announcement. “That’s sad, but we still keep in contact directly and right before the COVID-19, we met face-to-face every month to have dinner, to talk about businesses, to talk about lives. And we will remain friends for the rest of our life, I believe.”

Source: Business Insider

In October, Ma made headlines again in relation to Ant Group’s highly anticipated IPO. Ant Group was expected to raise $37 billion with a valuation reportedly surpassing $300 billion. But then, Ma publicly snubbed China’s financial regulatory system, calling it ‘an old people’s club.’

ant group
The mascot of Ant Financial.

Source: Business Insider

Soon after, regulators introduced new online lending rules that directly impacted Ant’s business. Officials then said there were “major issues” with Ant’s listing, and by November, the IPO was suspended.

Ant Group
Ant Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou.

Source: Business Insider

In the months since, Ma, China’s richest person, has seen his net worth tumble $12 billion, from approximately $62 billion to $50.1 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. He is now the fourth-richest person in China and the 25th-richest person in the world.

Jack Ma
Jack Ma

Source: Markets Insider, Bloomberg

Chinese regulators opened an antitrust investigation into Alibaba in December, yet another crackdown on Ma’s empire.

Alibaba

Source: Business Insider

In January, Yahoo Finance reported that Ma hadn’t been seen publicly in more than two months and had been replaced as a judge on the TV talent show he founded, which raised the question of whether Ma had gone missing.

Jack Ma

Source: Business Insider, Yahoo Finance

Ma’s absence mirrored similar situations where Chinese businessmen had disappeared after battling with regulators, but multiple sources now say that Ma is not missing – he’s simply “laying low” amid the government scrutiny and new regulations.

Jack Ma

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider

Read the original article on Business Insider

Alibaba slides 3% as founder Jack Ma’s prolonged public absence raises eyebrows

Jack Ma
  • Alibaba fell as much as 3% on Monday as its founder Jack Ma’s prolonged absence from the public view raised eyebrows.
  • Ma has not been seen in public in more than two months and he was abruptly replaced as a judge on an African entrepreneurship TV show late last year.
  • Ma’s withdrawal from the public view comes as his companies Alibaba and Ant Group faces increased regulatory pressure from the Chinese government.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Alibaba slid as much as 3% on Monday as its founder Jack Ma hasn’t been seen in public in more than two months.

Ma’s absence from the public view comes as the Chinese government has increased its regulatory pressure on Ant Group and Alibaba.

Ant Group’s planned November IPO was scrapped after Chinese authorities amped up its regulatory pressure on the fintech giant. The company is now back at the drawing board in terms of adopting significant regulations it must become compliant with, potentially altering its business model.

Alibaba has also faced an increase in regulatory pressures recently. A probe into the e-commerce giant’s seller exclusivity tactics was opened in December as the company is now being investigated by authorities for antitrust violations. 

Read more: GOLDMAN SACHS: Buy these 37 stocks that could earn you the strongest returns without taking on big risks in 2021 as the recovery and vaccine distribution get underway

The ramp up in regulatory pressure in Ma’s businesses came weeks after Ma criticized China’s financial regulatory system at a conference in Shanghai. Ma reportedly dismissed the China’s global financial regulations as “an old people’s club” and said that “we can’t use yesterday’s methods to regulate the future.”

Ma has not been seen in public in more than two months and he was abruptly replaced as a judge on an African entrepreneurship TV show he founded late last year, called Africa’s Business Heroes, according to a report from Yahoo Finance. 

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