Jack Ma, the billionaire cofounder of Alibaba who disappeared from public life in 2020, has taken up a teaching role in Japan

  • The Alibaba cofounder Jack Ma has joined Tokyo College, which is run by the University of Tokyo.

  • Ma will be conducting research and teaching about sustainable agriculture and food production.

  • A former English teacher, Ma has been lying low for two years after he angered regulators in China.

Jack Ma, the cofounder of Alibaba, has taken up a teaching position in Japan, one of the first public roles he has assumed since disappearing from the spotlight in 2020.

In his new role, Ma, who was once China's richest man, is expected to conduct research on sustainable agriculture and food production, Tokyo College said in an announcement on Monday.

The announcement says that Ma will also "share his rich experience and pioneering knowledge on entrepreneurship, corporate management and innovation" in seminars at the college, which is run by the University of Tokyo.

Ma's term as a visiting professor starts on May 1. It marks the 58-year-old's return to teaching after his retirement from Alibaba in September 2019. Ma was an English teacher for several years before he cofounded Alibaba.

Ma said in May 2019 that he would go back to teaching after retiring from Alibaba in September of the same year. At the time, he said he was returning to his roots because of his love for the profession.

Ma's return to a public-facing role comes more than two years after he angered Chinese authorities in October 2020 during a speech in which he criticized China's financial-regulatory system and claimed that Chinese banks were operating with a "pawnshop" mentality.

Days later the $37 billion float of his fintech business, Ant Group, was canceled.

The cancellation of Ant's IPO triggered a wider crackdown on tech firms in the country.

This pressured Alibaba's share price, which fell by more than 70% from its 2020 peak. Ma's wealth plummeted from a high of $61 billion in October 2020, to an estimated $33 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Since then, Ma — who was once a high-profile jet-setter — has been lying low, spurring intense speculation about his whereabouts.

In November 2022, Ma was spotted in Japan where he socialized mainly within several private members clubs, according to the Financial Times. In January, he was seen in Bangkok, Thailand, where he visited a Michelin-starred street-food restaurant and watched a Muay Thai fight. He also popped up in Hong Kong in January.

Ma has been getting more time in the limelight since March when returned to a school he founded in his hometown of Hangzhou in east China. In April, he was appointed an honorary professor at the University of Hong Kong.

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