One of China’s richest men has disappeared on the talent show he created.
Jack Ma, who is said to be valued at nearly $ 50 billion (£ 36 billion), was replaced as judge in the African Business Heroes finals.
The photo of the Alibaba Group’s co-founder has been removed from the website and has been omitted from a promotional video.
Ma’s absence from the November final came shortly after criticizing China’s regulators and state banks, the Financial Times reported.
A $ 37 billion public offer by his company Ant Group was put on hold after he delivered the speech.
He has not been seen publicly since.
An Alibaba spokesman said: “Due to a scheduling conflict, Mr. Ma could no longer be part of the jury of the African Business Heroes finals earlier this year (2020).”
In his speech, Ma heavily criticized the “pawnshop mentality” of Chinese banks and accused them of slowing down innovation.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping heard of the statements, he personally ordered the suspension of the public offer, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Days later, China introduced new antitrust rules that significantly devalued the company before regulators conducted an antitrust investigation into Ant Group.
Lucy Peng, an executive at Alibaba, replaced Ma in the finale, which is slated to air this spring.
A contestant on the show said, “There was something wrong with Jack Ma or something in China, so (Lucy) came in too.”
In addition to being China’s second richest person, Ma is also one of the country’s few international icons.
Last year he donated tens of millions of masks and 2,000 ventilators to New York hospitals around the world.
He has received praise online for interviews where he is fluent in English and for pulling his hair down in videos.
On one memorable occasion, he was filmed dressed as Michael Jackson and performed a six minute dance routine.