- The eccentric billionaire is equally as famous for throwing lavish company parties as he is for his wealth.
- Ma stepped down as Executive Chairman of Alibaba in Sept. 2019.
- His stake in Alibaba, and his many other ventures, have made him the richest man in China, worth $38 billion.
Following is a transcript of a video. Narrator: Jack Ma is China's richest man, with an estimated worth of $38 billion. The 55-year-old is the cofounder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba. It's China's biggest digital marketplace, responsible for an estimated 80% of all online sales in China. After 20 years at Alibaba, Ma announced in September 2019 he'll be stepping down as executive chairman. But don't worry. The flamboyant businessman is still sitting pretty. Here's how Jack Ma makes and spends his billions.
The billionaire is truly self-made. Ma started out as an English teacher, where he made just $12 a month. Harvard University rejected him 10 times, and he was turned down for jobs at an estimated 30 companies, including KFC. But with the introduction of the internet, Ma saw an opportunity. And with no tech or business background, he founded Alibaba with the help of 17 friends in 1999. The digital marketplace connected Chinese customers with manufacturers. Alibaba's start was initially rocky, facing the dot-com-bubble burst in 2000 and competition from eBay's Chinese venture, EachNet. But with some help from investments from Yahoo, the company found its feet by the mid-2000s.
Then, in 2014, Alibaba went public in what was the largest IPO in US history. And the sale made Ma the richest man in China. Alibaba rakes in money through the retail site Taobao; the payment-processing service Alipay, of which Ma holds a nearly 50% share; and the popular Chinese social-media site Weibo.
But Alibaba doesn't just do e-commerce. Under Ma's leadership, the company now owns the South China Morning Post and even a movie studio that's invested in films such as "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" and "Star Trek Beyond." Since Ma became executive chairman in 2013, Alibaba's revenue has grown by 1,100%. And as of September 2019, the company's market cap has reached $465 billion. And Ma's 5.3% share in Alibaba? Well, it's now worth a cool $24.6 billion.
But beyond Alibaba, Ma's income stream is impressively diverse. In 2010, Ma and four associates founded the venture-capital firm Yunfeng to handle much of Ma's personal investing. Ma also has stakes in Yahoo China. With billions in his pocket, you would think he's a big spender, right? Well, not exactly. He drives a humble Roewe RX5 SUV that cost just $15,000. And he doesn't spend much on hobbies, either. It's said he loves meditating, playing poker, and practicing tai chi, a hobby that led him to star in a kung fu film. But if he does splurge, it's in real estate. In 2015, he reportedly bought a house in Hong Kong's most expensive neighborhood for a whopping $191 million. At the time, the purchase broke the record for the most expensive home by square foot in Asia. He also dropped $23 million on a property in New York's Adirondacks. And a year later, he bought a 210-acre vineyard in the south of France. Plus, he still owns the apartment at Lakeside Gardens where he started Alibaba 20 years ago.
So how does he travel between all these properties? A Gulfstream 550 private jet purchased by Alibaba for $49.7 million. Alibaba also foots the bill for the legendary talent shows of which Ma is always front and center. Ma's talent-show performances have become the stuff of legends, from MJ dances to "Lion King" sing-alongs. The most impressive celebration was Ma's retirement party in September 2019. Alibaba rented out an Olympic-sized stadium for a massive celebration with 60,000 employees. It included an employee parade and a rendition of Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up" by Ma himself. But even with all his bashes and billions, Ma said he was actually happier when he was an English teacher. He's noted his billions come with a responsibility to spend on behalf of society. Maybe that's why he's turned to philanthropic work aimed at healthcare, the environment, and education.
Under his leadership, Alibaba donates 0.3% of earnings to environmental issues. Ma sits on the board of China's Nature Conservancy and has donated millions to disaster-relief efforts. The Jack Ma Foundation, formed in 2014, had pledged $44-million-plus both to Zhejiang University Hospital and to rural Chinese teachers. With his newfound retirement and soaring investments, no one knows where Jack Ma will take his billions next. But it will probably include a killer outfit.