Alibaba founder Jack Ma is staying out of the limelight, focusing his efforts on hobbies and philanthropy, according to a company executive.
Hes lying low right now, I talk to him every day, Joe Tsai, Alibabas executive vice chairman, said Tuesday in an interview on CNBCs Squawk Box. Hes actually doing very, very well. Hes taken up painting as a hobby, its actually pretty good.
The billionaire founder has had a rocky year with the Chinese government, leading to time out of the public eye. In October, Ma made negative comments about Chinese financial regulators just days ahead of the initial public offering of Ant Group in Shanghai and Hong Kong, which would have been the worlds biggest. However, regulators effectively pulled the plug on the IPO two days before it was set to take place.
After the IPO was suspended, Ma dropped out of the spotlight, leading to rumors that he was missing. A source at the time told CNBC that Ma was just laying low, and he later reappeared in a video for his charitable foundation in January.
The idea that Jack has this enormous amount of power, I think thats not quite right. He is just like you and me, hes a normal individual. He built a tremendous company of this scale, hes done great things for society ... I think today he just wants to sort of say, Hey, I want to focus on what I really want to spend time on, which is all the hobbies, all the philanthropy.
Tsai said the company is moving forward from the fine.
I think you have to separate whats happening to Jack and whats happening to our business. Our business is under some kind of restructuring on the financial side of things, and also in antitrust regulation. We had to pay a big fine. But weve gotten that behind us, so were looking forward, Tsai said.
Theres a lot of that undertone of anti-Asian sentiment. When things are good, thats fine. When things are bad for everyone, thats when those ugly anti-Asian attitudes surface, Tsai said.
— CNBCs Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.
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