Elusive Chinese billionaire Jack Ma — who has rarely been seen in public in the past three years — on Monday took up a visiting professor position at a Japanese university, another new academic role for the founder of tech giant Alibaba.
Tokyo College, part of the prestigious University of Tokyo, said Mr Ma would “share his rich experience and pioneering knowledge on entrepreneurship, corporate management and innovation” in seminars for students and staff.
The 58-year-old has kept a low profile since his fall from grace during a Chinese government crackdown on the tech industry more than two years ago.
He was the most high-profile Chinese billionaire to have disappeared amid a crackdown on tech entrepreneurs.
But he recently accepted an honorary professorship from the University of Hong Kong’s business school, reportedly for a three-year term ending in March 2026.
On its website, Tokyo College said Mr Ma would “conduct joint research and projects” with faculty members, “especially in the field of sustainable agriculture and food production”.
As visiting professor, the magnate is also expected to “provide advice and support” on research topics.
Before launching Alibaba — whose operations span e-commerce, cloud computing, media and AI — Mr Ma taught English for eight years at Hangzhou Dianzi University in eastern China.
He was one of the most high-profile targets of a crackdown on alleged anti-competitive practices by some of China’s biggest names in tech from late 2020.
Driven by fears that major internet firms control too much data and expanded too quickly, regulators issued Alibaba with record fines and scrapped the IPO of Mr Ma’s fintech company Ant Group.
Mr Ma stepped down as executive chairman of Alibaba in 2019 and later withdrew from its board of directors, but continues to serve as a lifelong “Alibaba Partner”.
In January this year he has also ceded control of Ant Group, reducing his voting rights from more than 50 per cent to 6.2 per cent.
Mr Ma, once China’s richest person with an estimated wealth of $71 billion, has had tens of billions wiped off his fortune as a result — dropping him several places down the country’s rich list.
He has largely been absent from public view over the past two years, but was spotted on a Spanish island and was reportedly living in Japan for much of 2022.
He made a rare public appearance in China in March, when he visited a school founded by Alibaba partners in the city of Hangzhou.
In February he was spotted in Melbourne drinking a Coke in a hotel, with a photo going viral on social media.
A source confirmed to The Australian at the time that it was “just a personal trip”.
It marked Mr Ma’s first visit in six years to Australia — a country with an exceptionally special connection to the entrepreneur due to his decades-long friendship with a family in the city of Newcastle.
Originally published as Jack Ma takes up visiting professor post in Japan