Jack Ma, who founded Alibaba, dubbed Asia’s Amazon, has reportedly not been seen in public for more than two months.
The suspicion was heightened when Ma criticised the country’s financial regulators and state-owned banks in a speech in October, calling for reform of a system that “stifled business innovation”.
Ma was suddenly replaced as a judge on the final episode of his own talent show, Africa’s Business Heroes, with an Alibaba executive.
Although, people are unaware of his whereabouts, an Alibaba spokesperson said he was unable to take part in the judging panel “due to a schedule conflict”. This conflicted with Ma’s statement weeks before the final episode, when he tweeted that he “couldn’t wait” to meet the contestants.
Ma was not only replaced, but he has been removed from the judging panel’s website and was later left out of a promotional video for the show.
This happened just after officials in Beijing launched an anti-monopoly investigation into Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding on Christmas Eve, and ordered Ma’s financial tech company Ant Group to scale back its operations.