Chinese billionaire and tech tycoon Jack Ma has been Missing In Action.

For years, nobody flew higher in China than Jack Ma, the $500 billion powerhouse eCommerce conglomerate Alibaba, also known as the Amazon of Asia.

Now he’s vanished and no one knows where he is. The co-founder of China’s most successful tech empire and legendary billionaire entrepreneur hasn’t been heard from in months.

There’s no public appearance or social media posts from Ma since late October. This is just over a week before the Chinese regulators blocked a much-anticipated stock market listing of Alibaba’s financial affiliate, Ant Group. 

Where is Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma?

In the three decades since he founded the eCommerce behemoth Alibaba Group, Jack Ma has revealed his identity as China’s most flamboyant billionaire. He has been a regular at the World Economic Forum in Davos and the Fortune Global Forum

The trouble started in late October after Ma criticized China’s regulators at a conference in Shanghai. As Ma’s financial tech firm Ant Group was preparing for the world’s largest initial public offering, he accused authorities of stifling innovation and blasted the country’s banks for having a “pawn shop” mentality.

And so when it became apparent that Ma had failed to turn up for a recent taping of Africa’s Business Heroes, a TV program he created, analysts, investors, and the financial press began to wonder: Where is Jack?

He vanished from the public eye, ANT’s IPO was canceled reportedly at the behest of Chinese President Xi Jinping — and China has launched an antitrust probe into Ma’s enormous company. Alibaba lost more than $110 billion in market value on December 24 when China officially launched the probe. China’s government also told state media to censor reporting on the investigation into Alibaba back in December. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that Beijing was seeking to shrink Ma’s empire and potentially take a larger stake in his businesses. 

While Ma has been out of the spotlight, his companies have made it clear that they are listening to Beijing. Ant said last week that it appreciated “guidance and help” from regulators after Beijing spoke publicly about its requirements for the company. And Alibaba pledged in late December to “actively cooperate” with antitrust investigators.

The Backstory of Jack Ma

Ma Yun a.k.a. Jack Ma is one of those self-made billionaires with humble beginnings. The founder of tech giant Alibaba is also a stakeholder at sister company Alipay. It is an e-payment portal. He is now officially the richest man in China with an estimated net worth of $25 Billion, with the recent world record $150 Billion IPO filing of his company. Given all of this, Jack Ma only holds a 7.8% stake in Alibaba and a 50% stake in Alipay. Alibaba is worth more than Facebook, and processes goods more than eBay and Amazon combined!

After several misfires, he formed Alibaba out of his small apartment in Hangzhou in 1999 with 17 friends. The initial concept — online shopping for small businesses — attracted $25 million from investors in its first year. Alibaba today is by most estimates the world’s largest online commerce company. Besides shopping, it also includes banking, technology, and cloud computing.

A former English teacher with humble beginnings, Ma has long personified China’s economic prosperity and entrepreneurial grit. He built Alibaba into a $500 billion tech empire and amassed a personal fortune of some $50 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Final Observations

Neither Alibaba nor Ant has issued any press statements regarding Ma’s whereabouts or regulatory filings on his status. The Chinese government is quiet. Also, China’s state-owned media have made no mention of Ma’s long absence from public view. 

Rumors are spreading fast on Chinese social media platforms about his whereabouts after his apparent disappearance following the controversial speech he gave at a summit on October 24. Following reports of Jack Ma’s disappearance, many took to social media, questioning his whereabouts.

Ma’s absence from the public eye marks a significant shift in the status of China’s tech tycoon. For now, where all that will leave Ant’s controlling shareholder remains as much a mystery as his whereabouts.

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