Alibaba's Ma and Tsai Establish Mega Charitable Trusts

Jim Erickson
Alibaba's Ma and Tsai Establish Mega Charitable Trusts

Alibaba Group co-founders Jack Ma and Joe Tsai have established that rank among Asia’s largest philanthropic endowments, a move The Wall Street Journal  said is being viewed as “the dawn of a new era of giving among China's freshly minted billionaires.”

In an April 24 press release, Ma and Tsai said the twin trusts would focus on improving China’s environment, health care, education and culture. Funding will come from Alibaba Group share options that collectively total about 2 percent of the giant Chinese e-commerce company’s equity.

Alibaba Group is privately held, so no value was attached to the equity stake. However, noted that Alibaba’s anticipated initial public offering in New York this year that could value the company at up to $150 billion, meaning the trusts would be worth roughly $3 billion—by far the largest endowment of its kind in China, according to the Journal, and large enough to rival one named after Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing.

Ma and Tsai—Alibaba Group’s executive chairman and executive vice chairman, respectively—said they would be donating alongside Alibaba’s corporate charitable foundation, which is managed by employees and contributes to initiatives in environmental awareness and conservation. Since 2010, Alibaba has earmarked 0.3% of the company’s annual revenues to fund the corporate foundation.

“Giving back to society is deeply embedded in Alibaba’s culture and I am incredibly proud of the commitment that our employees have shown to improving peoples’ lives,” Ma said in a prepared statement. “We hope to live in a world with bluer skies, cleaner water and better access to healthcare. I am extremely focused on the environment, medical care and education in China but concern and complaints cannot change the current situation. I am passionate about actively contributing and helping to solve these problems.”

“I hope that by taking this path and drawing attention to these issues, we raise awareness among even more people, and that we inspire and encourage our peers, partners and other entrepreneurs to join us in our philanthropic efforts,” Tsai said.

The announcement of the trusts comes the same week that Ma was named to TIME magazine’s . TIME cited the iconic Chinese entrepreneur’s efforts to . Alibaba recently launched a program to provide Chinese citizens with water testing kits to raise awareness of the water pollution issues across the country.

Ma, who is China chairman of , previously committed to donate all of his economic interest in the Yunfeng private equity fund to the Alibaba foundation; last year he that awards multimillion-dollar prizes for advances in life sciences research.

The establishment of the trusts by Ma and Tsai received public encouragement from several high-profile business leaders.

Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, said “Their gifts set a new bar for philanthropy in China, and hopefully other entrepreneurs and business leaders around the world will follow in their footsteps.”

Famed Microsoft founder-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates said “Jack and Joe’s generosity, leadership and example will do an immense amount of good, particularly in this remarkable time in the development of philanthropy in China.” That sentiment was echoed by Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett, a trustee of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who said the pair “have been extraordinary leaders in business and have now become leaders in philanthropy.”