"Before I turned 50 years old, my job was making money," Jack Ma told a desk worth of CNBC anchors on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after eight customers of his Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba rang the bell to open trading, "But now that I've turned 50 years old, it's helping people in China make money." Ma, who turned 50 last week, has done that first job better than nearly anyone in the world.
His net worth of $21.9 billion, according to Bloomberg, makes him the 34th-wealthiest person in the world, a few billion behind investors like George Soros and Carl Icahn, but just ahead former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Nike founder Phil Knight. Ma, who founded Alibaba in Huangzho, China, in 1999 and now serves as its executive chairman, stands to see his net worth go up after Alibaba's stock opens for trading. He's the richest person in China and 12th-richest person in technology.
That $21.9 billion is getting even more tacked on after Alibaba began trading Friday morning. At a price of $93 for Alibaba shares — where they are trading after opening at $92.70, a 36% "pop" from the $68 final price before trading — his 193 million shares that make up a 7.8% stake would be worth about $17.9 billion. The 12.75 million shares he will sold into the offering brought Ma $867 million in cash.
He would still have a ways to go to match the personal wealth of the founders of heirs to companies he one day hopes to surpass. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' net worth is $29.8 billion, and the four richest members of the Walton clan, heirs to Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, are worth a combined $127.8 billion according to Bloomberg. That will not deter Ma, who owns a smaller portion of Alibaba than the Waltons do Wal-Mart. "We hope in the next 15 years, the world changes because of us. We want to be bigger than Wal-Mart."
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Alice and Jim Walton, all still richer than Jack Ma.
This piece has been updated with Alibaba's share price.