The mystery about the fate of the iconic billionaire comes at a time when Chinese authorities are tightening grip over his business empire, including the Ant Group.
Mystery has deepened about the whereabouts of Chinese billionaire Jack Ma following reports that the Alibaba founder has not made any public appearance in the last two months.
First serious doubts about his whereabouts began when he failed to appear as a judge in the final episode of his own talent show, Africa’s Business Heroes. Ma was replaced by an Alibaba executive and according to an Alibaba spokesperson, this was due to his hectic schedule. However, the removal of Ma’s picture from the event's website raised eyebrows.
The mystery about the fate of the iconic billionaire comes at a time when Chinese authorities are tightening grip over his business empire, including the Ant Group, allegedly after in response to his criticism against China’s regulation system last October. Ma, who is quite a media-savvy public figure has not made any public appearance since the suspension of ANT’s IPO.
While experts like veteran investor Mark Mobius claimed the move was designed to curtail financial institutions from getting too big many viewed it as Beijing’s reaction to Ma for his opposition to the authority. The entire episode is further intriguing given that in the past, there have been a few billionaires in China who suddenly disappeared.
Between 2016 and 2017, during China’s infamous anti-corruption drive, a number of billionaires went missing. While some reappeared, stating that they were ‘helping the authorities,’ others never returned. The most popular of them being Chinese-Canadian businessman Xiao Jianhua, owner of Tomorrow Holding, who was taken from his hotel room in Hong Kong by alleged Chinese security officers during the Chinese New Year celebrations of 2017. As per some reports, he is being held by authorities and will be brought to trial over the crimes of manipulating the stock market and offering bribes.
First Published: IST