London: Billionaire Jack Ma has reportedly been hiding out in Tokyo with his family during Beijing’s crackdown on the country’s star tech firms and its most powerful and wealthy business people, a media report said.
Ma, the founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba who until the tech clampdown was China’s richest person, has rarely been seen in public since criticising the attitude of Chinese regulators towards tech companies at a summit in Shanghai two years ago, said the Guardian report.
Aside from a 48-second online appearance early last year, described by one analyst as akin to a “hostage video”, a brief trip to the Netherlands and Ma’s 88-metre superyacht Zen being spotted last summer docking off the Spanish island of Mallorca, the 58-year-old has maintained a low profile living outside his native China.
On Tuesday, the Financial Times, which is owned by the Japanese media company Nikkei, revealed Ma has most recently been living in Japan.
Citing anonymous sources, the paper said that for almost six months the former English teacher turned tech superstar has been living in Tokyo with his family.
His time has been spent mixing business and pleasure with visits to onsen (hot springs) and ski resorts in the Japanese countryside as well as regular trips to the US and Israel.
Ma, whose net worth has more than halved from almost $50 billion to $21.7 billion as regulators have targeted actions against his immense Chinese tech empire, is said to have kept his public activities to a minimum, bringing his personal security detail and chef with him on his sojourn, which has included attending a handful of private members’ clubs, one of which is known to be popular with wealthy Chinese, the Guardian report said.
Alibaba has become the lightning rod in the crackdown on big tech after Ma, famed for his outspoken nature and eccentric streak, accused regulators of stifling innovation.