- Alibaba founder Jack Ma resurfaced at a restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday.
- The picture of Ma was posted hours before Ant Group said Ma was giving up control of the company.
- Ant Group abandoned a blockbuster float in 2020 shortly after Ma criticized Chinese regulations.
Jack Ma, the elusive billionaire and founder of Alibaba, resurfaced in Thailand hours before Ant Group said he would relinquish control of the company.
A picture of Ma was posted to Instagram on Friday from the Jay Fai restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand, which he appeared to have just visited. “Incredibly humbled, we are honored to welcome you and your family to Jay Fai’s,” the restaurant wrote in its caption.
The post came hours before it was revealed that Ma was preparing to relinquish control of the company he founded, first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
In a statement released on Saturday, Ant, owner of the world’s largest mobile payments platform Alipay, said it was streamlining voting rights to prevent one shareholder from having a controlling vote.
The move would “further strengthen 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 delivering a speech criticizing China’s financial regulatory system.
Plans to take Ant Group public were abandoned the following month when Beijing intervened. According to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Ma, once China’s richest man, has shrunk by more than $25 billion since he disappeared from public view.
While Ma holds no leadership role or sits on Ant’s board of directors, he maintained his influence through a separate entity that he controlled. The changes announced on Saturday are the latest in a major overhaul at the behest of Chinese authorities.
Ma has kept a low profile since his clash with authorities. The Financial Times hinted in November that he had been living in Tokyo for six months, keeping out of the public eye and meeting mainly in private members’ clubs.
Some believe the move could reignite hopes of an IPO for Any, according to Reuters, but Chinese regulations requiring a halt to listings after a change of control could delay such a move by at least a year.