Billionaire entrepreneur Jack Ma, who co-founded Alibaba Group and formerly served as its executive chairman, is suspected to be missing.
Over the past few days, reports have emerged that the business magnate has neither been spotted in public nor has he made a social media post since late October. Multiple media outlets have also reported that he was abruptly replaced by Alibaba co-founder and executive Lucy Peng as a judge on the final episode of Africa’s Business Heroes, the talent show Ma founded through his namesake philanthropic foundation.
Speculation has mounted over the reason behind his presumed disappearance, which some publications have connected to a speech he gave at the Bund Summit in Shanghai on Oct. 24. There, Ma appeared to call for a reform of China’s banking system and criticize Beijing financial officials for stifling innovation. “We can’t use yesterday’s methods to regulate the future,” he said on stage.
A week later, the highly anticipated stock market listing of Alibaba fintech affiliate Ant Group was blocked at the last minute by Chinese regulators. The Shanghai Stock Exchange noted that the $37 billion offering — widely considered at the time to be the world’s biggest IPO — did not meet listing qualifications or disclosure requirements as China looks to overhaul rules and regulations related to the fintech industry.
In a statement to FN, an Alibaba spokesperson said Ma “had a scheduling conflict that prevented him from participating in Africa’s Business Heroes.” The company did not provide more information about his whereabouts.
Currently, Ma ranks 25th in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, with an estimated net worth of $50.6 billion. In October 2019, he stepped down from his role as Alibaba’s executive chairman — now held by CEO Daniel Zhang — in order to focus on his philanthropic efforts. Since February, the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have delivered millions of medical supplies including face masks and testing kits to more than 150 countries amid the global COVID-19 health crisis.
Ma also notably cashed out roughly $8.2 billion in Alibaba stock back in July. He continues to be a part of the Alibaba Partnership, a group of executives with influence over the e-commerce behemoth’s board, and has a 4.8% stake in the company from 6.2% the prior year.