- Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, appeared in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday.
- The picture of Ma was released hours before Ant Group said Ma was relinquishing control of the company.
- Ant Group abandoned a successful sale in 2020 shortly after Ma criticized Chinese regulations.
Jack Ma, the elusive billionaire founder of Alibaba, appeared in Thailand hours before Ant Group said it would relinquish control of the company.
Jay Fai Restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand posted a picture of Ma on Instagram on Friday, where he appears to have just visited the restaurant. “Incredibly humbled, it’s an honor to welcome you and your family to Jay Fai,” read the caption of the post.
The post came hours before The Wall Street Journal first reported that Ma was preparing to relinquish control of the company he founded.
According to local media, as reported by Reuters, Ma was at the restaurant with Soopaki Chearavanont, chairman of the Charoen Pokphand Group.
Ma was also reportedly pictured at a Muay Thai fight on Thursday posing in a fighting stance for a photo with Thai boxing champion Sombat “Buakaw” Banchamek.
In a statement released on Saturday, a spokesman for Ant Group, which owns the world’s largest mobile payment platform Alipay, said the company was simplifying voting rights to prevent any shareholder from having a controlling vote.
The move would “further improve the stability of our corporate structure and the sustainability of our long-term development,” the statement said.
Ma disappeared from public view in October 2020 after giving a speech criticizing China’s financial regulatory system.
Ant Group abandoned plans to list the company on the stock exchange next month when Beijing intervened. Once China’s richest man, Mao’s net worth has fallen by more than $25 billion since he disappeared from the public eye, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Although Ma does not have an executive role or sit on Ant Group’s board, he retained influence through a separate entity he controlled. The changes announced on Saturday are the latest in a comprehensive overhaul ordered by Chinese authorities.
Ma has remained largely inconspicuous since his run-in with the authorities. The Financial Times suggested in November that he had been living in Tokyo for six months, staying out of the public eye and mostly hanging out at private members’ clubs.
Some think the move could revive hopes for a floating Ant, according to Reuters, but Chinese regulations requiring a pause in listings after a change of control could delay such a move by at least a year.