Jack Ma’s private jet records show billionaire down but not out
Jack Ma has only made one public appearance since he upset the Chinese government last October in an inflammatory speech that led to the suspension of Ant Group’s record $ 37 billion IPO. .
But the Financial Times has obtained details of his private jet theft which suggest that while the 56-year-old founder of China’s largest financial technology company is down, he’s far from out.
Flight logs, compiled with data from Radarbox, a flight tracking company, is also dispelling rumors that he has fled China to Singapore or been under house arrest. Instead, they suggest Ma continue to have access to her Gulfstream jet, which has a range that could easily transport it to New York or London.
President Xi Jinping’s government crackdown on the normally high-profile Ma follows concerns in Beijing that Ant’s activities are increasing levels of risk in China’s financial system.
Ma’s Gulfstream is in a private terminal in Hangzhou, home of the companies he founded, Alibaba and Ant Group. The jet identified by the FT had a travel schedule that matched more than a dozen public appearances Ma made in the three months before he had problems with authorities.
No other private jet registrations registered in China, or the Cayman Islands, a popular place for Chinese billionaires to register their planes, have the same route, according to Radarbox data.
Flight logs show dramatic slowdown in Ma’s busy schedule after she left Low. Prior to October, Ma traveled once every three days, on average. In January and February, he only traveled about once a week, mainly to Beijing and the tropical island of Hainan, where Bloomberg reported he was seen playing golf.
Nonetheless, it seems that when Chinese regulators wanted to talk about Ant, it was Ma who flew to Beijing. He is the majority shareholder of the payments group but does not hold any formal function.
Relatives of Ant and Alibaba and regulators in Beijing have confirmed that he is directly involved in negotiations over Ant’s future. A person close to the regulators complained that Ma was always getting over their heads to advocate her case to the top Communist Party leaders. A friend of Ma agreed. “He still has the ability to reach the top,” the person said.
Records show intense activity around Ma’s controversial October speech in Shanghai, in which he criticized banks and state regulators. The day after his comments, his plane flew to Beijing for a four-day stay.
A few days later, at 9 p.m. on November 1, Ma flew to Beijing again from her hometown of Hangzhou. Chinese regulators announced shortly after that they had called him for a grill and that the ant would be faced with new regulations which torpedoed its IPO. Ma’s jet parked in Beijing for two weeks.
Its next flight to the capital came on Christmas Day, after Chinese financial regulators publicly summoned Ant Group for a second discussion on “financial supervision, fair competition and consumer protection.”
At the end of January, his jet was back in Beijing as Ant and regulators crafted a restructuring plan that was agreed but not yet publicly announced.
On Friday, Ant Group released “self-discipline rules for fintech platforms,” stressing that it would improve credit risk controls and work to prevent funds from flowing into housing and equity markets, in part of the latest move to align with Beijing’s efforts to control credit risk.
In contrast, the theft data from before October paints a portrait of a billionaire who crisscrossed China to collect awards and dates with local officials.
At the end of August, Ma’s plane flew to Beijing where he received an award from the Jordanian government for his help in the fight against Covid-19. “Viruses don’t have passports and don’t need visas,” Ma told the crowd of diplomats at the country’s embassy. A few days later, he was in the air again, en route to Kunming where he opened a new campus for his business school.
He and his plane were later seen in the lakeside town of Dali, before returning to Hangzhou for another speech to open the school year.
On September 9, Ma landed in Chongqing where he ate skewers on sticks and drank beer late into the night. Then he flew to Changsha and Fuzhou for meetings with local officials before offering himself reganmian, Wuhan’s famous hot and dry noodles. He closed the month with a speech in Haikou.
“My judgment on the future: it will be difficult in the short term, even more difficult in the medium term, but in the long term it will be good,” Ma told the crowd of businessmen. “Now is the turbulent time when the plane goes through the clouds, so everyone has to hold the wheel and buckle up their seat belts.”
Alibaba referred questions to Ma’s charitable foundation, which did not respond to a request for comment. Ant Group did not respond to a request for comment.
Nian Liu contributed reporting from Beijing