Jack Ma spotted in Australia in nod to Alibaba’s global roots

Mr Jack Ma had turned up in Hong Kong last month to meet finance and tech executives. PHOTO: REUTERS

MELBOURNE – Jack Ma has popped up in Australia, the billionaire’s latest stop on a months-long global jaunt and one that has particular emotional resonance for the Alibaba co-founder.

The entrepreneur was spotted at a hotel in Melbourne in recent days.

Anonymous sources later confirmed that he was spending time in the country, China’s Yicai media outlet reported.

Snapshots of Mr Ma in Australia surfaced on Twitter, although their authenticity has not been verified.

While his itinerary remains unclear, Mr Ma is close to the family of the late Ken Morley, who was his mentor.

According to Chinese daily The Global Times, the Morley family visited Mr Ma’s hometown in Hangzhou, which is the capital of China’s eastern Zhejiang province.

Mr Morley brought the young Jack Ma to Australia in 1985, in what was his first overseas trip. He spent nearly a month in Newcastle, New South Wales.

It was an experience the Chinese tycoon said “totally changed” his future, Global Times said.

Mr Ma stayed in touch with the Morleys and, in 2017, set up a US$20 million (S$27 million) university scholarship fund in his late mentor’s name.

Mr Ma has kept a low profile since a controversial speech in Shanghai in October 2020.

It came days before a huge initial public offering of Ant Group, Alibaba’s fintech affiliate, was called off at the last minute.

But since late 2022, he gradually resumed his globetrotting, which once defined China’s best-known entrepreneur.

He spent time in Tokyo and the Japanese countryside before making his way to Thailand, where he toured foodie spots and reportedly watched a Muay Thai boxing match.

He turned up in Hong Kong last month to meet finance and tech executives, local media reported.

Mr Ma, one of China’s most recognisable faces, has been on the move just as Beijing is appearing to relent in its campaign to curtail the influence and power of Internet giants.

In January, Mr Ma ceded control of his Ant Group fintech empire in an overhaul, which many observers took as a signal that the crackdown was nearing an end. BLOOMBERG

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