Jack Ma is a co-founder of Alibaba Group, a Chinese e-commerce company. The Hangzhou-based business runs Taobao, an online shopping site, and Tmall, a facilitator of online stores. The group had revenue of 869 billion yuan ($126.8 billion) in the year to March 2023. Ma also has a stake in online payment service Ant Group.
The majority of Ma’s wealth is derived from publicly traded Alibaba Group Holdings and its online payment service Ant Group.
Ma owns 3.7% of Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce company, according to the company’s 13D filing in February 2022. He holds the shares directly and through holding companies, including APN, a Cayman Islands-based company in which he has a 70% interest, JSP Investment and JC Properties, according to the annual report. Shares held by Yun Capital and Ying Capital are excluded from the net worth calculation because these companies are wholly-owned by The Jack Ma Philanthropic Foundation.
He’s also credited with 9.9% of Ant Group based on Ant’s 2020 prospectus for an initial public offering. Ma was expected to reduce his interest in Ant to “no more than 8.8%”, according to Alibaba’s 2014 initial public offering prospectus.
Ant was valued at $150 billion in a 2018 funding round, according to a Bloomberg News report. The valuation used in this analysis was updated in July 2023 to $61.4 billion to reflect the average of three valuations: the indicative value from Ant’s latest buyback scheme ($78.5 billion), the average valuation ascribed by analysts and investors as noted in a Bloomberg Intelligence report ($42 billion) and an estimate by Fidelity Investments cited in a January 2023 Bloomberg News report ($63.8 billion). Ant was previously valued here based on the average of five valuations and the methodology change in July 2023 led to a decrease in the net worth calculation of about $4 billion.
Rachel Chan, a spokeswoman for Alibaba Group, declined to comment on Ma’s wealth.
Education: Hangzhou Teachers University, Hangzhou Normal University
Jack Ma was born in September 1964 to Chinese traditional musician-storytellers living in Hangzhou, an ancient capital that’s also a global high-tech hub and bastion of entrepreneurship.
Ma taught himself English at age 12 and offered free guided tours, practicing his English with US visitors and listening to Voice of America broadcasts. He applied for college, failing the entrance exam twice before enrolling at Hangzhou Teachers College. He graduated and his first job paid him $15 a month for three years.
His proficiency in English enabled him to get a part-time job in 1995 as an interpreter for Chinese and American businessmen. He encountered his first computer and the internet during a visit to a friend’s house in Seattle. With the help of friends, he created a home page for his translation business the next day and received five responses.
Ma returned to China and started China Pages, a business that established websites for small businesses. He then took a government job where he met a first-time visitor to China, Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo. By 1999, Ma started Alibaba.com, a business-to-business marketplace, backed by $60,000 from 18 co-founders. Alibaba.com reached 1 million users in 2002. He decided to replicate the success with China’s consumers by building Taobao.com, a retail site, followed by an online payment platform called Alipay.
To help build the business, Ma sought an internet search engine partner and was contacted by Yang. They struck a deal whereby Yahoo bought a 40 percent stake in closely held Alibaba Group for $1 billion. Friction followed as Yahoo’s business was being eroded by the ascendency of Google, while Alibaba dominated China’s e-commerce sphere. Ma tried and failed to buy back the stake from Yahoo, and even considered buying Yahoo outright.
The relationship soured further. In order to secure an operating license for online payments, Ma transferred Alipay from Alibaba Group to a closely held company under his control in May 2011. Yahoo said Ma’s spinoff was done without the approval of Alibaba’s board, which then included Jerry Yang, and diluted Yahoo’s investment. Ma said Chinese regulators would balk at approving the license because foreign investors owned Alibaba. The parties settled in July 2011. After months of talks, Ma agreed in May 2012 to pay Yahoo $7.1 billion for its 20 percent stake in Alibaba, plus royalties for as long as four years.
Alibaba’s initial public offering in September 2014 was the biggest in the world. He said at that time that he’s not happy being China’s richest man and would someday return to teaching.
Ma relinquished his roles as Alibaba CEO in May 2013 and chairman in September 2019.
- 1964 Jack Ma is born in Hangzhou, China.
- 1988 Graduates from Hangzhou Teachers College.
- 1995 Encounters his first computer during a visit to Seattle.
- 1999 Raises $60,000 to start Alibaba.com.
- 2005 Yahoo buys a 40 percent stake in Alibaba Group for $1 billion.
- 2007 Alibaba.com holds initial public offering in Hong Kong.
- 2012 Delists the online retailer from the Hong Kong stock exchange.
- 2013 Retires as Alibaba Group CEO, remains as chairman.
- 2014 Raises $25 billion in world’s biggest initial public offering.
- 2015 Alibaba acquires the South China Morning Post.