J ack Ma is the richest person in China and No. 35 in the world. Executive chairman of Alibaba Group and one of the company’s co-founders, Ma was born in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. From when he was 12 through 20 years old, he would ride his bike for 40 minutes to Hangzhou’s West Lake district to practice English as a tour guide for tourists.
Ma graduated with a degree in English from Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute in 1988. He became a teacher making 100 to 120 renminbi, about $12 to $15 a month, after being rejected for a job at Kentucky Fried Chicken. His first venture into business, China Pages, was a flop.
Alibaba was born in 1999 in Ma’s Hangzhou, China apartment. His ownership in the company was worth roughly $18.2 billion, after Alibaba’s closing share price on its first day trading on the NYSE. That doesn’t include the shares he sold in the IPO, which are worth another $867 million, and his other investments.
He’s known for a strong affinity to martial arts novels, and, according to Bloomberg, asks employees to chose their work name and identity as a character from popular fantasy books. The one he chose? Fictional kung fu guru Feng Quingyang.
But Ma said his biggest hero wasn’t one of the Chinese warriors, rather, it’s Forrest Gump.
“I really like that guy,” Ma said during an interview with business channel CNBC. “Every time I’m frustrated, I watch the movie. (The movie tells) me that no matter whatever changed, you are you.”
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