Tech & Science

Where is Jack? Speculation swirls over tycoon Ma’s ‘disappearance’

The Alibaba founder has reportedly not been seen for nearly two months after Ant fiasco

Jack Ma appears to have disappeared into cyberspace amid a black hole of online conjecture.

The founder of high-tech juggernaut Alibaba has reportedly not been seen for nearly two months. He even failed to turn up for a high-profile television show.

Speculation has swirled around his whereabouts after a run-in with the country’s ruling Communist Party,

In October, Ma branded global banking rules an “old people’s club” during a major speech at the Bund Summit 2020 in Shanghai, taking a metaphorical machine gun to the regulatory elite.

“Today’s financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age. We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system,” he told his audience in China’s financial heartland.

The facts:

  • Ma failed to appear in the final TV episode of Africa’s Business Heroes, which gives young entrepreneurs the chance to win US$1.5 million.
  • The Alibaba affiliate Ant has been under scrutiny by Beijing since the Chinese billionaire left the regulators seeing red.
  • China’s government effectively blew up Ant’s record US$37 billion listing just weeks after Ma’s Shanghai speech.
  • Media reports started to surface that President Xi Jinping and the inner circle of the CCP were furious with the 56-year-old tycoon.
  • As news of Ma’s suspected disappearance spread, speculation reached fever pitch on social media. 

What was said: “Due to a schedule conflict Mr Ma could no longer be part of the finale judges panel of Africa’s Business Heroes,” a spokesperson for Alibaba told the Financial Times without going into further details. Since then, there has been no further comment.

What Ma said in that controversial speech: “Today’s financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age. We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system. We must do away with the ‘pawnshop’ mentality of today’s finance. We must rely on the development of a credit system.”

China Factor comment: Even though Ma has stepped down from the day-to-day business at e-commerce giant Alibaba, he is still a national icon. His followers see him as a Chinese version of the late Steve Jobs. But there are rumors that he has become too outspoken for the CCP after cashing in on the government’s tech policy, which spawned the big three of Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent. He is now worth $50.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Still, the question remains, where is Jack?

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