As if raking in over $14 billion on Singles’ Day, splashing out on online video giant Youku-Tudou and getting interviewed by Barack Obama simply wasn’t enough for one month’s work, Jack Ma is now planning a major foray into the media and entertainment industries.
E-commerce juggernaut Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is in “advanced” private discussions to invest in Hong Kong-based SCMP Group Ltd, which publishes the 112 year old English-language newspaper South China Morning Post, at one time the most profitable broadsheet in the world, reports Bloomberg.
A spokesman for Alibaba as well as the communications department at SCMP Group refused to comment on the matter to China Daily earlier this month when the story first emerged.
Although as yet no information has been released regarding the financial details of the deal, a signing ceremony is expected to be announced soon.
In response to this story, the latest in Alibaba’s seemingly exponentially expanding media empire, Huang Guofeng, an analyst at the Internet consultancy Analysis International in Beijing, said the company has a “big vision to enter people’s living rooms”.
Of course, Ma isn’t the first Internet tycoon to take an interest in printed media. Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013 while Chris Hughes, one of the co-founders of Facebook Inc., bought a majority stake in the New Republic magazine in 2012.
The struggling SCMP Group Ltd has reported substantial declining profits for the past three years and since 2013 has been suspended from trading in Hong Kong. In the past six months more than 30 staff have left the newspaper including 4 prominent journalists who were axed, and most recently the paper’s editor-in-chief stepped down.
Ma himself has been involved in controversy with the newspaper in the past. In 2013, a SCMP reporter resigned after quoting Ma as having made remarks in support of Beijing’s violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters on Tiananmen Square in 1989.
“More Chinese tycoons including Jack Ma are showing interest in media businesses,” said Lo Shih-hung, a professor at the National Chung Cheng University’s Department of Communication in Taiwan. “Hong Kong has become an important region for Ma’s overseas expansion strategy.”
The potential deal, however, could raise some eyebrows among Hong Kong residents who may not be impressed with an acquisition of the city’s paper of record by Ma, a Chinese citizen, who frequently appears with leaders of the CCP and has expressed his support for their actions in the past, sometimes in the pages of the SCMP itself.
By Daniel Paul