Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, had since 2020 been in the middle of the Chinese government’s clampdown that targeted his e-commerce company and its affiliate Ant group.
In its report titled “The Sad End Of Jack Ma Inc,” Forbes detailed that Mr Ma business empire’s current worth was half what it was 9months ago after the Chinese government took over some of his assets and introduced unfavourable policies and fines.
The business magazine further revealed that China is still doling out some of the most ‘lucrative slices’ of Ma’s business to new “partners” of its choosing, including one of the most corrupt and financially shaky companies in the country.
It was learnt that Jack Ma’s misfortunes started in November 2020 after he spoke up against the China’s regulatory approach to the finance sector.
Mr Ma chided the country’s financial regulators for being of the habit of minimising risk, he also accused Chinese banks of acting like pawnshops, lending only to those who could present collateral.
His comments triggered the Chinese government to squash Ant group’s $35 billion initial public offering. Last year, the Ant Group was the largest Fintech company in the world.
In April, a “record” fine of $2.8 Bn was levied against Jack Ma’s flagship, Alibaba – for antitrust violations. The dollar amount appeared far smaller than the financial damage from the broken Ant IPO, and some observers dismissed it.
Still, it was the description of the “sin” that mattered. The company was accused of “abusing its market dominance” and, again, “ordered the company to ‘rectify’ its behavior” and “shrink its business.”
Chinese authorities have piled on other penalties, which seem minor, or tangential, but in context they display Beijing’s animus even in petty matters.
For example, the company’s highly popular Internet browser – number 2 in the Chinese market with over 400 million active users – was deleted at Beijing’s insistence from the app stores of most mobile and Internet companies in March.
Also in April, Ma was removed as president of Hupan University, the ultra-elite business school he founded and endowed in 2015.
“Jack Ma’s elite business academy has been forced to suspend new student enrollments following pressure from Beijing as authorities tighten their chokehold on the Chinese tech billionaire’s empire.”
“Ma needs to disassociate himself from the organisation but there are worries that Hupan may have trouble attracting students if Ma exits completely,” one person said. “The academy is popular because of him, not its curriculum.”
The abrupt reversal of Jack Ma’s fortunes has been shocking to watch. His assets have been stripped, shorn, and degraded (“rectified” is the English word often given as the translation for whatever verb in Chinese describes what Beijing is doing to his businesses).
KanyiDaily recalls that on his 54th birthday, Jack Ma had announced that he would step down as executive chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba to become a teacher.