After two months of remaining absent from the public view and recently missing the final episode of a TV show on which he was to appear as a judge, speculations surrounding the disappearance of Alibaba founder Jack Ma have surfaced.
The last time Ma was seen in public was in late October when he gave a speech regarding China’s regulatory system in Shanghai in which he criticized the country’s regulators for stymying innovation and banks for having a “pawn shop” mentality. The speech ultimately resulted in the suspension of a $37 billion IPO of Alibaba’s Ant Group, which would have gone down as the world’s largest stock listing.
On Friday, The Financial Times revealed that Ma had been replaced as a judge in the final episode of a game show for entrepreneurs dubbed Africa’s Business Heroes. On Monday, however, an Alibaba spokeswoman told Reuters that the change was due to a scheduling conflict.
“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.
China’s top regulator, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), announced on December 24, 2020 that it would be investigating Alibaba’s monopolistic policies, including its requirement of having merchants sign an agreement that prevents them from selling on rival platforms.
The People’s Bank Of China also recently summoned Ant Financial to a meeting and asked the company to regulate its services and implement financial supervision.
On Monday, Alibaba shares dropped 2.15 percent.