Who is Pony Ma? Is Tencent Founder Facing Jack Ma's Fate as CCP Trains Guns on Him?

The Chinese government is targeting billionaire tech entrepreneur Pony Ma over alleged anti-trust violations. The founder and CEO of technology giant Tencent Holding has apparently come under the scrutiny of the China Communist Party (CCP) government after a similar move targeted Alibaba founder Jack Ma late last year.

Beijing's antitrust watchdogs are looking into the possibility of forcing Tencent to overhaul its fintech division and bring its operations under a holding company, Bloomberg has reported, citing informed sources. The government regulators are scrutinizing every aspect of Tencent's operations, the report says.

Impending Action?

The report adds that the threat of impending action by Beijing has already led to the wiping out of as much as $170 billion from the company's value.

The officials of the State Administration for Market Regulation have already made Pony Ma to sit down with them to discuss compliance at Tencent, Reuters reported. The officials have expressed concern over Tencent's business practices, the report said, adding that they pressed the company on adhering by antitrust rules.

Who is Pony Ma?

Pony Ma, Tencent Founder
Pony Ma, Tencent Founder Wikimedia Commons

Born as Ma Huateng in 1971, the Chinese businessman controls Asia's most valuable company. He is the the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Tencent, China's biggest social media and gaming company. Ma had a modest background and his father was a port manager in Shenzhen.

He completed a bachelor's degree in computer science from Shenzhen University and then worked with China Motion Telecom Development. His experience at the company that supplies telecommunications services and products helped him in building Tencent. The internet company was established in 1998 by Ma and his classmates. He was named one of the world's most influential persons by the Time Magazine in 2007. He has also been a regular name in the Forbes rich list for years.

The low-profile businessman is also a philanthropist. He transferred as much as $2.3 billion worth of his personal Tencent shares to his charitable foundation, the Ma Huateng Global Foundation, in 2016.

As of late 2020, Ma was China's richest man with a net worth of over $52 billion. Most of his wealth derives from his stakes in Tencent, in which he holds 9.7 percent stake.

Was he in CCP's Crosshairs?

tencent, alibaba new music rights deal
Visitors use their smarts phones underneath the logo of Tencent at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing 6 May 2014 Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

In early March, Chinese media had reported that Pony Ma was planning to forward a proposal to the government seeking tighter governance of the country's internet economy. The proposal was to be submitted at the annual parliamentary meeting, state broadcaster China National Radio (CNR) reported. Tencent operator of China's mammoth messaging service WeChat and a host of other internet businesses, financial services companies and gaming products.

Crackdown of Jack Ma's Empire

It was reported in early March that the CCP government was moving ahead to impose a $1 billion fine on Jack Ma's e-commerce behemoth Alibaba after months-long investigation into alleged violation of monopoly rules.

By the end of December last year, there were reports that the Chinese government was planning to nationalize Alibaba, Jack Ma's flagship company, as well as Ant Group. The news frenzy was kicked off after China's investigators set up an office at the Alibaba headquarters in November.

This was followed by further bad news for Jack Ma as the focus turned to his criticism of President Xi Jinping and the consequences thereof. There were speculations that Jack Mas probably detained and even that he may have been dead. The many months of absence from public life fueled the speculations even as the stock of the company running China's largest online shopping portal kept bleeding.