Alibaba founder said living in Japan after China tech crackdown, often visits Israel

E-commerce billionaire Jack Ma reported to be spending his time in Tokyo with family, keeping a low profile, but making ‘regular’ trips to Jewish state and the US

Founder of Alibaba group Jack Ma arrives at the Tech for Good summit in Paris, May 15, 2019. (AP/Thibault Camus, File)
Founder of Alibaba group Jack Ma arrives at the Tech for Good summit in Paris, May 15, 2019. (AP/Thibault Camus, File)

TOKYO, Japan — Alibaba founder Jack Ma has been living in Tokyo for almost six months after disappearing from public view following China’s crackdown on the tech sector, the Financial Times reported Wednesday, citing multiple unnamed sources.

He also makes “regular” trips to Israel and the US, according to the report. Ma and the Alibaba Group have invested in over two dozen Israeli startups over the years including Twiggle, Infinity Augmented Reality, Lumus and ThetaRay. Alibaba was part of a Chinese consortium that in 2016 acquired Israeli gaming company Playtika — now a publicly-traded gaming empire — for $4.4 billion.

Ma has visited Israel a number of times in recent years, including in 2018 when he met with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visited with leading tech entrepreneurs, and addressed students at Tel Aviv University.

The billionaire has kept a low profile since the crackdown in China, which has included regulators scrapping the IPO of Ma’s Ant Group and issuing Alibaba with record fines.

But the FT said he has spent much of the past six months with his family in Tokyo and other parts of Japan, along with visits to the United States and Israel.

The British newspaper said Ma has frequented several private members’ clubs in Tokyo, and become an “enthusiastic collector” of Japanese modern art, as well as exploring expanding his business interests into sustainability.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma speaks in Tel Aviv, October 25, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Ma has been spotted elsewhere since he effectively disappeared from public view in China, including on the Spanish island of Mallorca last year.

In recent years, Chinese officials have taken aim at alleged anti-competitive practices by some of the country’s biggest names, driven by fears that major internet firms control too much data and expanded too quickly.

This July, a report said Ma planned to hand over control of Ant Group to appease Chinese regulators and revive the digital payments unit’s initial public offering.

His e-commerce giant Alibaba reported flat revenue growth in August for the first time, as China battled an economic slowdown and resurgent COBID-19 cases.

US authorities have put the company on a watchlist that could see it delisted in New York if it does not comply with disclosure orders, causing its shares to slump.

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