5 reasons why Alibaba founder Jack Ma says being rich is a pain

Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group, speaks at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California in this file photo taken on Oct 27, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS
Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group, speaks at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California in this file photo taken on Oct 27, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

It's not easy being a billionaire. Money is such a pain that it's making China's richest man "not very happy".

Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, caused a stir when he told CNBC on Nov 11 that being so wealthy is causing him "great pain".

Here are five reasons why he is unhappy:

1. Alibaba's historic initial public offering (IPO) is too stressful

Ma has seen his fortune balloon to US$19.5 billion (S$25.1 billion) after Alibaba's record-breaking US$25 billion IPO on the New York Stock Exchange on Sept 19. The company's share price closed at US$114.54 on Wednesday, almost double its offer price of US$68.

"IPO is great because… I'm happy with the results... But honestly, I think when people think too highly of you, you have the responsibility to calm down... be yourself... If I do not calm down, everybody like jumping like monkeys. That's no good... This month I'm not very happy - I think too much pressure... Maybe the stock goes so up, maybe people have high expectations on you, maybe I think too much about the future and have too many things to worry about."

2. Record sales on China's Singles Day a logistical nightmare

Alibaba raked in US$9.34 billion in sales on Singles' Day - celebrated by the Chinese on Nov 11 - crushing last year's total of US$5.75 billion, making it the biggest 24-hour online shopping event in the world.

But this means the company has to deliver more than 260 million packages within days, up from the daily average of 17 million.

"It means a lot of responsibility, you have got to deliver all these packages in the next 3 to 5 days... I wish there will be no snow, no rain the next 3 to 5 days... I start to worry because how can we deliver? Every day - no - every hour (I) think about how we can deliver because there will be millions of delivery guys on the street. I don't want them getting hurt."

3. Ambitious plan to expand Alibaba shopping days to include US holidays

Ma aims to make holiday shopping on Alibaba an even bigger event - and yes, an even bigger logistical nightmare. He wants Chinese consumers to shop not only on Chinese holidays, but also American holidays such as Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

With more than 800 million Chinese accounts, Alipay - the third-party payment service spun out of Alibaba - is already the biggest mobile payment processor in the world. Through Alipay, Chinese consumers can easily buy foreign brands on TMall Global, AliExpress and other Chinese e-commerce sites.

Last month, Alipay launched ePass, a payment and logistics service for Western e-commerce sites looking to sell goods to Chinese consumers. Five big-name American retailers - Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ann Taylor and Aerospotale - have joined ePass service.

"On the 10th year anniversary of Double Eleven Day (Singles Day), I wish it will be a global shopping day for the United States, for Europe, for anywhere in the world. So I really cannot imagine how big that will be because I want more people involved, more companies involved... it is going to be big"

4. People look at him differently

Ma, who can't walk down the street without being recognised, feels that people get close to him because of his riches, not because of who he really is.

"People say 'well Jack, rich people are good.' Yeah it is good, but not the richest man in China. It's a great pain because when you're (the) richest person in the world, everybody (is) surrounding you for money... I want people to see this is entrepreneur... I want to be myself."

5. Spending money is much more difficult than making it

Ma is looking for ways to use his enormous wealth to give back to society. He is looking at the possibility of setting up a foundation to spend money "in a business way" and may even compete with US billionaire Bill Gates in the field of philanthropy.

"Spending money is much more difficult than making money... we are learning how to do this philanthropy, charity things and how (we) can do the environment, water protection, we're learning... You made a lot of money, you gotta spend it, and you cannot spend, buy 10 bags and 11 houses. You want to spend money in an effective way. You wanna spend money in a business way that can really help people."

Here's what some netizens say:

"If he wants to feel some sense of happiness and pleasure in life, he needs to do what Gates does and give to great causes. Other then that, a private jet, or a new Rolls Royce, ends up feeling pretty hollow. " - Crla

"I am unemployed and broke, let's talk about how I can help you with that 25 billion dollar burden that is making you feel stressed." - Timothy Bragg

"Poor guy must be under an enormous amount of pressure, but it's good to see he is already thinking of effective ways to philanthropically spend his fortune. It doesn't look like he has even hit his peak yet since analysts are still rating BABA as a BUY" - IBROWNRIG

"I don't think Steve Jobs was ever truly happy. I think he paused a moment here and there to take satisfaction in a success, then went right back to challenging himself to do more, better. It's both the blessing and curse of people who are driven to succeed at a very high level." - Fair Isaac

" If he is tired of being rich, I can think of a few people that will be more than happy to take a portion of his money and wealth." - Todd Schweikert

"A poor man with lots of money." - CMGRN

SOURCE: CNBC, FORBES MAGAZINE, AFP