Jack Ma’s disappearance from public view in the past two months, including his omission of the final episode of a TV show on which he was to appear as a judge, has fueled social media speculation about his whereabouts in the middle of a Chinese regulatory clampdown on his vast business empire.
Since a late October forum in Shanghai, where he blasted China’s regulatory framework in a speech that put him on a collision course with authorities, resulting in the suspension of a $37 billion IPO of Alibaba’s Ant Company Fintech arm, China’s highest-profile entrepreneur has not appeared in a public environment.
The Financial Times announced on Friday that in the final episode in November of a game show for entrepreneurs called Africa’s Business Stars, Ma was ousted as a judge.
On Monday, an Alibaba spokeswoman told Reuters that the move was due to a conflict with scheduling, refusing further comment.
There was talk that the Chinese government had either imprisoned or executed Jack Ma. According to a Forsige analyst Yosam Mukundane, nonetheless, the whole speculation is critical – it indicates that it can be very complicated to comprehend.
“Jck Ma might be laying low for time being to avoid further damage to his business and himself and also put doubt to speculation of him being imprisoned since he is a big brand to ordinary Chinese and an important assurance to international cooperations in China” Yosam added.
Although news coverage of Ma’s disappearance from public view sparked speculation on Twitter, which is blocked in China, in mainland China, where controversial subjects are subject to censorship, it was not a major trending topic on social media.
After his October statement, Chinese regulators have zeroed in on Ma’s firms, including initiating an antitrust investigation into Alibaba and requiring Ant to shake up its loans and other consumer finance companies, including the formation of a new holding company to satisfy capital requirements.