Chinese billionaire Jack Ma who ‘disappeared’ from the public eye has re-entered the spotlight but in a completely different profession.
Jack Ma, who Forbes estimates is worth a cool $24.4billion, has been laying low for many years after criticizing regulators as Beijing cracked down on big tech.
The business magnate, investor and philanthropist is the co-founder of Alibaba, an e-commerce company.
Since he basically vanished in around 2020, people have come up with all kinds of speculations on his whereabouts – including the idea he was detained by authorities or had been punished by Beijing for his criticism.
But Ma was eventually spotted in Thailand and Europe with reports suggesting he had also spent some time in Tokyo.
The 58-year-old reportedly returned to China in March and it seems he’s now going back to his roots.
Last Monday, 12 June, he gave his first lecture as a visiting professor at the University of Tokyo.
In a session offered by Tokyo University and Tokyo College, Ma was the featured speaker at an ‘innovation and entrepreneurship’ seminar which focused on management philosophy.
This two-hour talk attracted students from other countries such as China, India and Malaysia. On the Tokyo College website, it says it was based on Ma’s ‘rich experience and pioneering knowledge of entrepreneurship and innovation’.
And then, on Saturday, 17 June, the billionaire was in China for the final of a global mathematics competition organized by Alibaba.
South China Morning Post reported that he chatted with the competition’s finalists in the city of Hangzhou.
Ma was once an English lecturer at a university in the city before he began working in tech.
Starting the Alibaba Group in 1999, he went on to become China’s richest person at one point.
In 2018, he retired from Alibaba and announced he would be pursuing educational work, philanthropy and environmental causes.
With rumours still circulating about Ma’s whereabouts and situation, the President of Alibaba, Michael Evans, addressed speculation at the recent Viva Tech conference in Paris.
CNBC reported him saying: “Well, first of all, Jack is alive. He’s well, he’s happy. He’s creative. He’s thinking. He’s teaching at a university in Tokyo, spending more time in China.”
“He cares … as much about this company today, as he did when he started, and I expect that that will continue for as long as Alibaba and Jack Ma are here.”
Ma is now the seventh wealthiest Chinese national on Forbes’ billionaires list.