Alibaba founder Jack Ma has been absent from public view since late October, 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.
Since the billionaire blasted China’s regulatory system in a speech that put him on a collision course with officials, resulting in the suspension of a USD37 billion IPO of Alibaba’s Ant Group fintech arm, China’s highest-profile entrepreneur has not appeared in a public setting.
As reported by the Financial Times on Friday, Jan 1st, Ma was replaced as a judge in the final episode in November of a game show for entrepreneurs called Africa’s Business Heroes. An Alibaba spokeswoman told Reuters on that the change was due to a scheduling conflict, declining further comment.
Chinese regulators have zeroed in on Ma’s businesses since his October speech including launching an antitrust probe into Alibaba and ordering Ant to shake up its lending and other consumer finance businesses including the creation of a separate holding company to meet capital requirements.
According to Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based tech consultancy BDA China, Ma has been told to lay low as this is a pretty unique situation, more linked to the sheer scale of Ant and the sensitivities over financial regulation.