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Jack Ma reportedly proposed a restructure at Alibaba, and it has echoes of what's been happening at Meta

Huileng Tan   

Jack Ma reportedly proposed a restructure at Alibaba, and it has echoes of what's been happening at Meta
  • Alibaba cofounder Jack Ma held a small group meeting with top company execs in May, per LatePost.
  • Ma suggested flattening out Taobao and Tmall's org charts by cutting managers.

Alibaba cofounder Jack Ma retired from the company in 2019, but he was back advising the company in late May, per LatePost, a Chinese media outlet.

Ma held a small group meeting with executives from the company's e-commerce platforms Taobao and Tmall, LatePost reported on Monday, citing unnamed Alibaba employees.

In that meeting, Ma said the competition facing Taobao and Tmall is "very severe," according to an Insider translation of LatePost's story.

Ma suggested the two Alibaba e-commerce platforms cut out management layers, per the LatePost report. Insider was not able to independently confirm LatePost's reporting.

Alibaba currently employs more than 230,000 people. The company's offices are spread across China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the US.

Such a move would echo changes seen in Silicon Valley, with tech giants like Meta, Salesforce, and Amazon all eliminating middle managers' jobs.

In particular, many supervisors at Meta have been demoted to individual contributors amid CEO Mark Zuckerberg's "year of efficiency."

Alibaba is facing stiff competition from Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, and PDD, the parent company of Temu. The total value of merchandise sold on TikTok and Pinduoduo, a PDD e-commerce platform, exceeded half of Alibaba's e-commerce business in China in 2022, according to LatePost calculations.

Ma is still retired, but more visible than he's been in recent years

Ma has been lying low for more than two years, after angering Chinese authorities in an October 2020 speech in which he criticized China's financial regulatory system and claimed Chinese banks were operating with a "pawnshop" mentality. His words prompted intense regulatory scrutiny of his businesses and a wider crackdown on tech firms in China.

But Ma appears to be more publicly visible, and more actively engaged with the company this year.

In January, he was seen in Bangkok, where he visited a Michelin-starred street-food restaurant and watched a Muay Thai fight. He also popped up in Hong Kong in the same month.

In March, Ma returned to a school he founded in his hometown of Hangzhou in eastern China. In April, he was appointed an honorary professor at the University of Hong Kong.

In May, Ma took up a teaching position in Japan, one of the first public roles he has assumed since disappearing from the spotlight in 2020.

And on Saturday, Ma attended the finals of the Alibaba Global Mathematics Competition in Hangzhou, where Alibaba is based.

Alibaba president Michael Evans told CNBC on Thursday that Ma was enjoying his change in lifestyle.

"Well, first of all, Jack is alive. He's well, he's happy. He's creative. He's thinking. He's teaching at a university in Tokyo, spending more time in China," he said, per CNBC.

Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.