The 56-year-old billionaire founder of the Alibaba and Ant Group, Jack Ma, has vanished. In more than two months, he hasn’t been seen publicly, Jessica Yun posted on Sunday for Yahoo Finance.
As China has cracked down on his business empire, Ma has been in the spotlight lately. Chinese regulators initiated an antitrust investigation in late December into Alibaba, the largest e-commerce firm in the world, often referred to as “China’s Amazon.” And China implemented regulations in November that prevented what would have been a major initial public offering for Ant Group, Ma’s fintech company.
The Financial Times announced that in November, Ma was replaced as a judge on the African talent show he created, “Africa’s Business Heroes.” The talent show did not respond immediately to the request for comment from Business Insider, but due to a scheduling conflict, an Alibaba representative said Ma could no longer be on the judging panel for the show’s final, which was filmed in November but has not yet been released.
In response to concerns about Ma’s whereabouts, “We do not have anything to add beyond that,” the representative said.
Ma stepped down as the 2019 Chairman of Alibaba.
Ma was the richest man in China until recently, with a fortune of more than $60 billion. But over the past two months, Ma’s net worth has suffered a $12 billion hit as China has tightened the rules for the fintech industry. Ma is now worth $50.6 billion, making him, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the fourth-richest person in China.
A prediction about Ma from another billionaire Chinese businessman was recirculated on social media as rumors about Ma’s whereabouts spread.
Last week, after expressing concerns that its corporate governance was “not sound,” the Chinese government ordered Ant Group, which owns Alipay, China’s largest digital payment network, to scale back its operations.
A spokesperson for Ant Group did not immediately respond to the request for comment for this story from Business Insider.