Jack Ma’s businesses are under enormous pressure right now. But the co-founder of China’s most successful tech empire and the legendary billionaire entrepreneur has not been in the public notice for months.
Ma has not made a public appearance or seen active on social media since late October.
Ma made his last post on social media just over a week before a much-anticipated stock market listing of Alibaba’s (BABA) financial affiliate, Ant Group, was blocked at the last minute by China Securities Regulatory Commission.
Since then, Ant Group has gone from preparing the world’s largest initial public offering to being ordered to overhaul large swaths of its business. Chinese regulators have criticized the company for edging out rivals from the market and hurting consumer rights.
While news coverage of Ma’s absence from public view triggered speculation on Twitter, which is blocked in China, it was not a significant trending topic on social media in mainland China, where sensitive topics are subject to censorship.
International media, CNN, Reuters, Telegram reported that Alibaba founder was supposed to be a part of the judging panel for entrepreneurs show titled Africa’s Business Heroes in the November final. But he was replaced by an Alibaba executive.
The Financial Times reported on January 2 that Ma was replaced as a judge in the final episode in November of a game show for entrepreneurs called Africa’s Business Heroes.
His absence from public view in the past two months, including missing the final episode of a TV show on which he was to appear as a judge, has fueled social media speculation over his whereabouts amid a Chinese regulatory clampdown on his sprawling business empire.
China’s highest-profile entrepreneur has not appeared in a public setting since a late October forum in Shanghai where he blasted China’s regulatory system in a speech that put him on a collision course with officials, resulting in the suspension of a $37 billion IPO of Alibaba’s Ant Group fintech arm.
Reports claim that the Chinese regulators have zeroed in on Ma’s businesses since his October speech.
Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listed shares fell by 2.15% on January 4.
It is being speculated that Jack Ma’s wrangle with China’s authoritarian regime has led to a crackdown on his business in the country and his disappearance from public space.