Jack Ma: Being China’s richest man has made me unhappy

Author

Andrew Trotman

November 12, 2014

Alibaba founder Jack Ma is worth $24bn, but says that spending money is much more difficult than making money

Alibaba founder Jack Ma is worth $24bn and his retail company, the largest in the world, sold $9bn-worth of products on Tuesday alone.

With a successful US IPO behind him and shares in his company, the largest retail business in the world, soaring, he must be feeling great. Apparently not.

“I’m not very happy,” China’s richest man told CNBC . “Too much pressure. People say, ‘Well, Jack, rich … is good’. Yeah, it is good, but not the richest man in China.

“It’s a great pain because when you’re [the] richest person in the world, everybody [is] surrounding you for money,” he said. “Today when I walk on the street, people look at you in a different [way]. I want to be myself.”

Alibaba, which recently overtook Walmart to become the world’s largest retailer, was valued at $170bn in its New York flotation in September after the shares began trading at $68 each. They have since risen more than 69pc and were trading at $115 each on Tuesday night.

The 50-year-old former schoolteacher said this surge in the stock price is partly to blame for his low mood.

“Maybe the stock goes up, maybe people have high expectations on you, maybe I think too much about the future and have too many things to worry about,” he said.

“The IPO is great because … I’m happy with the results, but honestly I think when people think too highly of you, you have the responsibility to calm down and be yourself.”

Mr Ma, who runs a conglomeration of online marketplaces, said he might turn to philanthropy in a bid to end his “great pain”.

“Spending money is much more difficult than making money,” he said.

He added that he is looking at setting up a foundation to “spend money in a business way”.

“You can’t buy 11 houses, you want to spend money in an effective way, in a busineses way that can really help people. When you have that much money, it’s the trust people are giving you, how you can spend money more efficiently than governments. This is a big challenge.”

However, the competition to be the most charitable person on the planet could cause even more stress.

“The competition between me and Bill Gates: who can spend money more effectively,” Mr Ma said.

Alibaba did not return calls for further comment when contacted by The Telegraph.

The entrepreneur spoke as Alibaba revealed it notched up $9.3bn in sales on Singles’ Day on Tuesday. The annual shopping event, China’s version of Valentine’s Day, is the world’s largest online retail day and sees millions of people celebrate being single by buying products.

Alibaba said Singles’ Day sales had roared past last year’s total of $5.75bn, as it shipped 278m orders – 43pc of which were bought via mobile devices.

“You’re seeing the unleashing of the consumption power of the Chinese consumer,” said Joe Tsai, Alibaba ‘s executive vice-chairman.

In a sign the company, which sells more products than Amazon and eBay combined, could get even bigger, Mr Ma told a technology conference last month that he is interested in teaming up with Apple .

“I hope we can do something together,” Mr Ma said. He added that it should be a “marriage” both sides want.

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