Coincidences are the darnedest thing.
China’s former richest man is giving up all of his power following his mysterious disappearance.
With a net worth of around $23 billion, Jack Ma is one of the most powerful people in the world, and head of tech giant Ant Group.
However, in recent years, he’s become a bit of a thorn in the side of the country’s communist regime, having openly criticised the government in the past.
He once accused Chinese banks of operating with a ‘pawnshop mentality’ and claimed the government was trying to ‘use the way to manage a railway station to manage an airport’ with regards to modern digital finance.
Ma, who founded the e-commerce company Alibaba, was then called to a meeting with regulators and the breaks were put on Ant’s planned floatation.
Speaking last year, China analyst Christina Boutrup said Ma was stunned by the reaction.
“That day he apparently crossed the invisible red line for what can be said and done in Xi Jinping’s China,” she said.
“I believe it was a big surprise for him. He would never have crossed that line if he had known how bad it could go.”
Shortly after that meeting, in November 2020, the 57-year-old vanished for several weeks.
At the time, some thought he had died or had been disappeared by the Chinese authorities, however, he returned to public life on 20 January last year, posting a short video online.
Ma has tried to soften his relationship with the regime, making changes to his company in order to better align with tighter governmental controls.
However, the entrepreneur has now told Alibaba’s board that he intends to reduce his 50.2 percent stake in Ant Group to around 8.8 percent.
“He intends to reduce and thereafter limit his direct and indirect economic interest in Ant Group over time (for the avoidance of doubt, other than the equity stake in Ant Group held by our company), to a percentage that does not exceed his and his affiliates’ interest in our company immediately prior to our initial public offering and that the reduction will occur in a manner by which neither Jack Ma nor any of his affiliates would receive any economic benefit.”
It goes on: “He will donate all of his Yunfeng GP Distributions to, or for the benefit of, the Alibaba Group Charitable Fund or other entities identified by him that serve charitable purposes.
“Other than his income tax obligations arising from recognition of income from Yunfeng GP Distributions, he will not claim any charitable deductions with respect to donations of his Yunfeng GP Distributions against his other income tax obligations.”
Following his return last year, the share price in Alibaba jumped by seven percent.