Jack Ma swaps drawings with fellow tech billionaire

Japanese technology entrepreneur Masayoshi Son has revealed that he exchanges drawings with Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

Mr Ma mostly disappeared from public view after he made comments critical of Chinese regulators in October.

During an earnings call for his company Softbank on Monday, Mr Son was asked if he had been in contact with Mr Ma.

He said Mr Ma likes to draw, and has shared his sketches with him.

“He’s drawing many drawings and he sent me many drawing of his creation and he sent me those to see those.

“So not always about the business, direct discussion, but we are talking [about our] our hobbies or we just send regards and so on. So that kind of exchange is being done,” Mr Son said.

The two entrepreneurs are long-time friends and served on the boards of each others’ companies before they both stepped down earlier this year.

SoftBank was an early backer of Alibaba, pouring $20m (£14.5m) into the company in 2000, when it was virtually unknown.

It holds a stake of nearly 25% in the Chinese e-commerce giant.

Billionaire’s art club

Mr Son didn’t say what Mr Ma’s drawings depicted, what medium he used, or if he was an undiscovered talent.

It’s not Mr Ma’s first foray into the art world.

The long-time art collector sold his first painting “Paradise” in 2015 for $5.4m.

It was an oil painting on a round canvas depicting earth, which he painted with his friend, the well-known Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi.

Mr Son – who isn’t known for his paintings but is known for using quirky visual metaphors in his earnings presentations – appeared happy to engage in a creative exchange.

“So about 30 minutes or so before I go to bed, I draw some drawings and so on,” Mr Son said.

“I haven’t shown him yet, but once I complete that, I can show him that too.”

Jack Ma under pressure

In recent months, Mr Ma’s business empire has been under intense scrutiny from the Chinese regulators.

In November, Alibaba’s payments affiliate Ant Group abandoned a planned share market launch – tipped to be the biggest of the year – after the regulators raised concerns about its consumer lending practices.

Alibaba, which is China’s largest e-commerce platform, is also under scrutiny by China’s market regulator for monopolistic practices.

Ant Group, which is China’s biggest electronic payments platform, also has a consumer lending platform that has raised concerns from the regulators.

The lending platform charges banks a fee to be matched with borrowers, but Ant Group doesn’t take on any of the risk itself.

China’s central bank has intervened, and ordered sweeping changes at the company.


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