Alibaba's Jack Ma: investors and entrepreneurs like husbands and wives

May 13
8:57 AM 2014

(Reuters) - Jack Ma, the founder and executive chair of Alibaba Group Holding, said investors and entrepreneurs can fall out like domestic couples squabbling over their children in a blog post published late on Monday as the Chinese e-commerce juggernaut prepares for its blockbuster initial public offering.

"The relationship between investors and entrepreneurs is like a couple's, nobody can say who is taking advantage of the other," Ma said in an emoticon-filled post, written on Alibaba's mobile social networking app Laiwang.

"Also, it is common for them to quarrel and break up because they have different opinions over how to raise and educate their child," he said.

Alibaba, the world's biggest e-commerce company, is preparing for its U.S. IPO after filing its prospectus last week. This has the potential to be the biggest tech company listing yet, according to analysts, surpassing Facebook Inc's $16 billion filing in 2012.

"Investors know they aren't your guardian angel," Ma continued. "The reason they invest in you isn't because they're kind-hearted."

In a letter Ma sent to employees before the IPO filing, Ma emphasized that shareholders were not his priority. "After the IPO we'll still uphold the policy of 'customers first, employees second, and shareholders third,'" he wrote.

Ma's checkered past with investors has raised concerns among some ahead of the IPO.

In 2011 a decision to spin off Alipay, the online payment arm of then-listed, caused a row between the company and major stakeholders Yahoo Inc and Softbank Corp.

Alibaba, Yahoo and SoftBank settled the matter in 2011, but not before David Einhorn, the Greenlight Capital hedge fund manager, sold all of his Yahoo shares in frustration at what he deemed mutual "finger-pointing" between the companies.

"Finding money is difficult, finding intelligent money is even harder, and finding a way to harmoniously coexist and develop with your investors after the investment is the hardest," said Ma in Monday's post.

(Reporting by Paul Carsten and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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