When you are Asia’s richest man, you can pretty much do anything you damn well like.
That was proved this week when the CEO of Alibaba, Jack Ma, appeared on stage astride a motorcycle and performed a Michael Jackson dance tribute to 40,000 employees at his company’s 18th birthday party.
There are many highlights in the video. The tentative throttling of the motorcycle at the beginning. The deathly silence of the crowd as they try to work out what is happening. The rather strange magic tricks that tend to involve a lot of pointing and confused stagehands. The backup dancers who we can only assume are made up of volunteers from finance/marketing/sales departments.
It’s not the first time Ma has entertained employees at an Alibaba function. In 2009 he popped up out of the stage wearing a long blonde wig and proceed to sing along to “The Lion King” soundtrack.
Ma (who has a net worth of $48.6 billion according to Forbes) is hugely popular in China, and was ranked number 2 in Fortune’s 2017 “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” list.
But success didn’t come easy for Ma. He started to study English at a young age and practiced the language daily by conversing with English-speakers at Hangzhou international hotel, a 70-minute bike ride from his home.
Despite struggling to get into college (it took Ma four years to pass the entrance exams) he eventually graduated with a degree in English and another in business.
Prior to founding Alibaba, Ma applied for 30 different jobs — including a job at KFC and another as a police officer — and was rejected for all.
In 1994 he heard about the internet, and in 1999 he founded Alibaba in his apartment with a few friends.
Ma is a big fan of Tai Chi and teaches regular classes at Alibaba, at which attendance by employees is compulsory.
Ma’s vision, according to his assistant, is that one day people will remember him above all as a Tai Chi master, rather than solely as the founder of China’s largest internet company and online shopping website.