Alibaba founder Jack Ma has been staying out of the spotlight and focusing his efforts on hobbies and philanthropy, according to a company executive. “He’s dodging now, I talk to him every day,” said Joe Tsai, executive vice president of Alibaba, in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” program. “He’s doing really, really well. He started painting as a hobby, actually it’s really good.”
The founding billionaire had a difficult year with the Chinese government, which led him to stay out of the public eye. In October 2020, Ma made negative comments about Chinese financial regulators just days before the Ant Group’s initial public offering in Shanghai and Hong Kong, which would have been the largest in the world. However, regulators canceled the IPO two days before its start date.
After the IPO was suspended, Jack Ma came out of the spotlight, leading to rumors that he was missing. A source at the time told CNBC that Ma was just hiding, and he later reappeared in a video for his charity foundation in January.
“The idea that Jack has this enormous amount of power, I don’t think is right. He’s like you and me, he’s a normal guy. He built an amazing company, did great things for society. I think today he just wants to say, ‘Hey, I want to focus on what I really want to spend my time on,’ which is hobbies and philanthropy.”
Chinese regulators also opened in December last year an investigation into the company’s practices. In April, Beijing fined the company $2.8 billion, alleging it abused its market dominance. Tsai said the company is moving forward since the fine.
“I think you have to separate what’s going on with Jack and what’s going on with our business. Our business is going through some kind of restructuring on the financial side of things and also on antitrust regulation. We had to pay a big fine. But we’ve left it behind, so we’re looking forward to it,” Tsai said.
In an interview with CNBC from inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Tsai also reflected on the increase in racist attacks against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s a lot of that anti-Asian feeling tone. When things are fine, fine. When things go bad for everyone, that’s when those horrible ‘anti-Asian attitudes’ arise, he said.
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