Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba, disappeared from public view in 2020
Once one of China’s richest businessmen, Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma mostly disappeared from public view two years ago after a run-in with the authorities. He has now resurfaced in Tokyo, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, citing people with direct knowledge of his whereabouts.
Ma, an outspoken teacher-turned-tech titan, was once a high-profile jet-setter who was the face of China’s Big Tech. But he has been lying low since October 2020, after giving a speech criticizing China’s financial regulatory system.
There has been intense speculation of Ma’s whereabouts since he vanished from the limelight.
One of the most recent sightings of the billionaire was in July this year, when he visited Wageningen University & Research in July, the Dutch institution announced on its website.
Even though he’s been living in Tokyo for nearly half a year, Ma has been keeping a low-profile in the city and socializes mainly within several private members’ clubs, per the FT. He also spends his time in Japan visiting hot springs and ski resorts in the countryside with his family, according to the media outlet.
While based in Tokyo, Ma has been making regular trips to the US and tech-hub Israel, according to the FT.
Like China, Japan had some of the world’s toughest border controls during the pandemic, but visa-free travel resumed last month. In contrast, Covid lockdowns still persist in China, leading to rare protests against the authorities last weekend.
The spotlight on Ma’s activities coincided with Beijing’s push for “common prosperity” — a concept that the rich must share their wealth with the poor to create a more equal society. The drive that intensified from 2020 has hit big tech as well as property firms, which were forced to reduce their debt levels, as authorities sought to control high home prices.
This weighed on Chinese tech and property firms, sending the net worth of the country’s richest plunging. Ma, who at his peak was worth about $61 billion in October 2020, is now worth about $30.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That’s in part because Alibaba’s share price has fallen about 75% from its 2020 peak.
Ma stepped down as the chairman of Alibaba in 2019. He still sits on the board of the Jack Ma Foundation, which he founded.
The foundation did not respond immediately to a request from Insider for comment.