The world is closely watching Jack Ma’s vacation aboard his superyacht in Spain, as the Alibaba co-founder makes his first trip overseas since the e-commerce giant came under a regulatory crackdown in China.
The billionaire reportedly arrived in Spain on a private jet over the weekend and boarded his own luxury yacht, Zen, for a cruise near the Spanish island of Mallorca, where he played golf and visited stores.
The vacation of the once-flamboyant, globe-trotting billionaire has come under intense scrutiny a year after his business empire ran afoul of the Chinese government, prompting speculation about his fate amid Beijing’s tightening control of the tech sector.
A $37 billion initial public offering of Alibaba affiliate Ant Group was halted by regulators in November last year. Alibaba was slapped with a record $2.8 billion antitrust fine. A famous actress with business dealings with Alibaba was mysteriously erased from the internet. The party chief in Alibaba’s home city was put under anti-graft investigation, although Ant Group denied any links to its botched IPO.
All of these fueled rumors that Ma, who had since been lying low, was in some sort of personal trouble. He had already lost some $14 billion in personal wealth over the past year as Alibaba shares plunged, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Some people speculated that he might have been banned from leaving China.
The rumor has been debunked now that the billionaire is sailing in the Mediterranean. Alibaba’s shares in Hong Kong rose by 6.5 percent on Wednesday, following reports of Ma being out of China.
The 290-foot-long Zen left the island of Ibiza and sailed towards Mallorca on Monday, according to vessel tracking website MarineTraffic. On Thursday, the yacht was anchored near the resort city of Palma, the capital of Mallorca.
The route matched Ma’s itinerary as reported by the media. The South China Morning Post, a newspaper owned by Alibaba, reported on Tuesday that Ma was in Spain for an “agriculture and technology study tour related to environmental issues.”
Ma played golf and visited a flea market in Mallorca this week, Spanish newspaper The Diario de Mallorca reported. The report said Ma visited a furniture store at the port of Andratx, and acquired a 69-euro sculpture that looked like a Buddha with arms raised.
A source quoted by Hong Kong newspaper The Standard said Ma had been too busy handling the Alibaba issues to use his yacht since it was commissioned last year, and the vessel had mostly been parked at Rhode Island in the United States. The Spain trip should be his first time boarding the yacht, the source said.
Before arriving in Spain, Ma was in Hong Kong to spend “private time” with his family, the South China Morning Post said.
Ma retired as Alibaba’s chairman in 2019 but continued serving as the tech giant’s public face. A spokesperson for Alibaba directed questions about Ma’s trip to the Jack Ma Foundation, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Follow Viola Zhou on Twitter.