Ant Group, the Chinese fintech giant, has announced that billionaire Jack Ma will no longer be the controlling person of the company. According to a statement from Ant Group, the change is being made in order to reduce the company's reliance on Ma, who co-founded Alibaba Group and helped establish Ant Group, but does not hold an executive position at the firm. Ma has previously controlled Ant Group through an entity in which he holds a dominant position, but these agreements will now be terminated. Ma and nine other Ant Group executives and employees will have voting rights at the company and will be able to exercise their power independently of each other and of Ma.
Ant Group, which owns the popular digital payment platform Alipay, has been required to overhaul its operations following a government crackdown that began with the suspension of its multi-billion dollar IPO in November 2020. The IPO, which was set to take place synchronously in Shanghai and Hong Kong, would valued Ant Group at over $300 billion. As part of its restructuring, Ant Group has been revamping its various business lines, including consumer lending and insurance, and will eventually become a financial holding company subject to regulations similar to those of traditional financial firms.
The change in control brings Ant Group closer to completing its overhaul, but may also delay the potential revival of its IPO for a year or more due to Chinese securities regulations requiring a timeout on public listings for companies that have undergone a recent change in control. The nine other individuals who will hold voting rights at Ant Group include Chairman Eric Jing, Executive Vice President Xiaofeng Shao, and Chief Technology Officer Xingjun Ni.
Ma has largely disappeared from the public eye since he made controversial comments about Chinese regulators in a speech prior to Ant Group's planned IPO in 2020. He retired from Alibaba in 2019, but continued to control Ant Group, which has charted a separate course from Alibaba in the wake of Beijing's crackdown on large internet platforms. Ma's control of Ant Group dates back more than a decade to his time as CEO of Alibaba, but he has previously considered relinquishing control of Ant Group out of corporate governance concerns that risks may arise from the company being too reliant on a single dominant figure.