Photo: Foundations World Economic Forum / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)
Born: 10 September 1964
Born Place: Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
Education: Hangzhou Normal University (BA)
Occupation: Business magnateinvestorphilanthropist
Known for: Co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group
Net worth: US$50.3 billion (As of 25 March 2021)
Political party: Communist Party of China
Spouse(s): Zhang Ying
Jack Ma Yun (born 10 September 1964), is a Chinese business magnate, investor and philanthropist. He is the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate. Ma is a strong proponent of an open and market-driven economy.
In 2017, Ma was ranked second in the annual “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” list by Fortune. He has widely been considered an informal global ambassador for Chinese business, and is an influential figure for the community of startup businesses. In September 2018, he announced that he would retire from Alibaba and pursue educational work, philanthropy, and environmental causes; the following year, Daniel Zhang succeeded him as executive chairman.
As of January 2021, with a net worth of $61.4 billion, Ma is the third-wealthiest person in China (after Zhong Shanshan and Ma Huateng), as well as one of the wealthiest people in the world, ranked 20th by Forbes. In 2019, Forbes named Ma in its list of “Asia’s 2019 Heroes of Philanthropy” for his work supporting underprivileged communities in China, Africa, Australia, and the Middle East.
Jack Ma was born in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China. He began studying English at a young age by conversing with English-speakers at Hangzhou International Hotel. For nine years, Ma would ride 27 km (17 miles) on his bicycle to give tourists tours of the area to practice his English. He became pen pals with one of those foreigners, who nicknamed him “Jack” because he found it hard to pronounce his Chinese name.
Later in his youth, Ma struggled attending college. Ma failed the entrance exam for the Hangzhou Teachers College twice as his weak point was mathematics. The Chinese entrance exams, held annually, took Ma three years to pass. Ma attended Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute (currently known as Hangzhou Normal University) and graduated in 1988 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. While at school, Ma was head of the student council. After graduation, he became a lecturer in English and international trade at Hangzhou Dianzi University. He also claims to have applied ten times to Harvard Business School and got rejected each time.
Awards and Honors
- In 2004, Ma was honored as one of the “Top 10 Economic Personalities of the Year” by China Central Television (CCTV).
- In September 2005, the World Economic Forum selected Ma as a “Young Global Leader”.
- Fortune also selected him as one of the “25 Most Powerful Businesspeople in Asia” in 2005.
- Businessweek also selected him as a “Businessperson of the Year” in 2007.
- In 2008, Barron’s featured him as one of the 30 “World’s Best CEOs”
- In May 2009, Time magazine listed Ma as one of the world’s 100 most powerful people. In reporting Ma’s accomplishments, Adi Ignatius, former Time senior editor and editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review, noted that “the Chinese Internet entrepreneur is soft-spoken and elf-like—and he speaks really good English” and remarked that “Taobao.com, Mr. Ma’s consumer-auction website, conquered eBay in China.” He was also included in this list in 2014.
- BusinessWeek chose him as one of China’s Most Powerful People.
- Forbes China also selected him as one of the Top 10 Most Respected Entrepreneurs in China by in 2009. Ma received the 2009 CCTV Economic Person of the Year: Business Leaders of the Decade Award.
- In 2010, Ma was selected by Forbes Asia as one of Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropy for his contribution to disaster relief and poverty.
- In 2011, it was announced that one of his companies had gained control of Alipay, formerly a subsidiary of Alibaba Group, so as to “comply with Chinese law governing payment companies in order to secure a license to continue operating Alipay.
- Numerous analysts reported that Ma sold Alipay to himself below market value without notifying the board of Alibaba Group or the other major owners Yahoo and Softbank, while Ma stated that Alibaba Group’s board of directors were aware of the transaction. The ownership dispute was resolved by Alibaba Group, Yahoo! and Softbank in July 2011.
- Ma was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in November 2013.
- Ma was a board member of Japan’s SoftBank (2007–2020) and China’s Huayi Brothers Media Corporation. He became a trustee of The Nature Conservancy’s China program in 2009 and joined its global board of directors in April 2010.
- In 2013, he became chairman of the board for The Nature Conservancy’s China Program; this was one day after he stepped down from Alibaba as company CEO.
- In 2014, he was ranked as the 30th-most-powerful person in the world in an annual ranking published by Forbes.
- In 2015, Asian Award honoured him with the Entrepreneur of the Year award.
- In 2017, Fortune ranked Ma second on its World’s 50 Greatest Leaders list.
- In 2017, a KPMG survey ranked Ma third in global tech innovation visionary survey.
- In October 2017, Ma was given an honorary degree of Doctor of Science in Technopreneurship from De La Salle University Manila, Philippines.
- In May 2018, Ma was given an honorary degree of Doctor of Social Sciences by the University of Hong Kong in recognition of his contributions to technology, society and the world.
- In May 2018, Ma received an honorary doctorate from professors Yaakov Frenkel and Yaron Oz at the Tel Aviv University.
- In May 2019, Ma and other 16 influential global figures were appointed by Secretary-General of the United Nations as the new advocates for sustainable development goals.
- In July 2020, Ma received from King Abdullah II a first class medal for his contribution in fighting back against the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In Aug 2020, Ma will receive from President of Pakistan a Hilal e Quaid e Azam medal for his contribution in fighting back against the COVID-19 pandemic.