Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is ceding control of Alipay owner Ant Group. Per The Wall Street Journal, the Alibaba-affiliated company announced it would end agreements that had allowed Ma to hold a dominant position within Ant Group’s corporate governance structure. The outspoken entrepreneur previously possessed more than 50 percent of voting rights at Ant, even though he did not sit on the company’s board of directors or was involved in day-to-day operations. Ma’s influenced Ant Group through a handful of investment vehicles that owned a combined 50.5 percent stake in the fintech giant.
Moving forward, Ant said Ma and nine other company executives and employees would have voting rights they had agreed to use independently of one another. Reuters estimates Ma will own 6.2 percent of Ant Group shares once the company implements the changes it announced over the weekend.
In 2020, shortly before Ant was scheduled to hold an initial public offering that was expected to raise a record $34 billion, Ma drew the ire of Chinese authorities after he called the country’s banks “state-owned pawnshops” during a speech in Shanghai. Chinese regulators went on to block the impending IPO and ordered Ant to scale down its business. Specifically, the company was ordered to return to its roots as a payment provider. A year later, authorities fined Alibaba, Ma’s other company, $2.8 billion following an antitrust investigation into alleged monopolistic practices by the company. Ma has avoided the public eye ever since.