Chinese billionaire Jack Ma's not 'missing,' just 'laying low' after economic reform speech: sources

One of China's richest men has not made a public appearance in more than two months

Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is "laying low" but "not missing or detained" after calling for economic reform in China during an October speech, sources inside Alibaba told FOX Business.

Yahoo Finance reported on Sunday that Ma, one of China's richest men and the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, was suspected missing since he has not made a public appearance in more than two months.

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"Today's financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age," Ma said Oct. 24 in Shanghai, according to Yahoo Finance. "We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system."

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Ma irked regulators with the speech at a business conference in Shanghai attended by some of the regulators he was criticizing. Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan also was in the audience.

Ma complained regulators had an antique “pawnshop mentality” and were hampering innovation, according to Chinese media.

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Both Alibaba and Ant Group, the financial services company he spun off of Alibaba, came under the scrutiny of the Chinese government after Ma's speech. Alibaba is facing an antitrust investigation launched in December, while Ant Group's IPO was suspended and the business was told to restructure.

Jack Ma, billionaire and chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., arrives for the Tech For Good summit at Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 15, 2019. Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Alibaba Group shares traded in Hong Kong have fallen 19% since October. Ma’s fortune, which peaked earlier above $60 billion, fell by more than $10 billion.

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Ma, 56, stepped down as Alibaba’s chairman in 2019 but is part of the Alibaba Partnership, a 36-member group with the right to nominate a majority of its board of directors. He is one of the biggest shareholders.

Ma has committed millions of dollars to fighting the coronavirus pandemic. In the spring, he said he would give $14.4 million from his foundation toward funding the vaccine development for coronavirus in Wuhan. Ma also committed an additional $2.15 million toward developing a vaccine at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Australia.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.