Chinese billionaire Jack Ma has given up control over Ant Group, which owns the Alipay payment system. As notified by The Wall Street Journal, an Alibaba-affiliated company announced the termination of agreements that allowed Ma to occupy a dominant position in Ant Group’s corporate governance structure. The entrepreneur previously owned more than 50% of Ant’s voting rights, although he was not on the company’s board of directors or involved in day-to-day operations. Ma controlled Ant Group through several investment firms that together held 50.5% of the fintech giant’s shares.
In the future, according to Ant Group, Ma and nine other company executives and employees will have voting rights that they have agreed to exercise independently of each other. By Reuters’ estimates, Ma will own a 6.2% stake in Ant Group once the company implements the changes it announced over the weekend.
In 2020, just before Ant planned to launch an initial public offering that was expected to raise a record $34 billion, Ma angered the Chinese authorities after calling the country’s banks “state pawnshops” during a speech in Shanghai.
Chinese regulators blocked a planned IPO and ordered Ant to scale back its business. Specifically, the company was ordered to return to its core business as a payment provider. A year later, authorities fined Alibaba, another of Ma’s companies, $2.8 billion after an antitrust investigation into alleged monopolistic practices. Since then, Ma has avoided the public eye.