23 July 2019
Jack Ma most probably enjoyed the life of a British aristocrat, but he may run foul of animal rights groups because of his new hobby. Photo: HKEJ
Jack Ma most probably enjoyed the life of a British aristocrat, but he may run foul of animal rights groups because of his new hobby. Photo: HKEJ

Jack Ma, the deer hunter

Alibaba has certainly opened the door to a magical world for Jack Ma, a former English teacher. It has even allowed him and his friends to live the life of aristocrats in Old England.

Ma hired four helicopters to transport a dozen of his friends to the enchanted Aldourie Castle on the shores of Loch Ness, where they spent HK$1.3 million (US$167,700) to live like Scottish royalty in the 500-acre estate that boasts 15 bedrooms plus the services of a butler and a chef, according to The Sunday Times. 

The group of “tuhao” — the Chinese elite notorious for their glitzy taste and excessive spending — dressed up like British aristocrats to indulge in deer hunting, although they had little experience in the sport since only members of the People’s Liberation Army are allowed to carry firearms in China.

Says Highland Sporting agent Lachie Smith: “Telling someone who has made billions that they can’t do something is not easy, but if they shot one of the beaters that would not be funny.”

Major Hong Kong and mainland newspapers eagerly picked up the story for their Monday editions not only because it shows a less known side of Jack Ma, who stands to become one of China’s richest tycoons with Alibaba’s upcoming US listing that is expected to value his company as much as US$150 billion, but also how the country’s nouveau riche are aspiring for the lifestyle of the blue blood.

Deer hunting as a sport of the British high society was popularized by the costume drama TV series Downton Abbey, a huge hit among Yukou Todou viewers who compare it with the Chinese classic Dream of the Red Chamber.

The Downton Abbey series, whose four episodes attracted over 10 million viewers in England, depicted the lives of Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era with various hunting, shooting and fishing scenes.

We are not sure if Ma was there just for the fun and not for business because, as you know, he bought a controlling stake in ChinaVision Media Group in April and hopes to turn the company, which is engaged in TV and movie production as well as live sports broadcasts, into Alibaba Pictures with a Hollywood vision.

It is possible that Ma and his pals are scouting for settings for a new reality game show similar to Dad! Where Are We Going?, a Korean production about five celebrities and their kids which is hugely popular in China.

However, we are concerned that the e-commerce king may run foul of animal rights groups because of his new hobby. Imagine, letting those poor, gentle beasts suffer a horrible, agonizing death. To Ma’s credit, though, his sprawling online shopping site Taobao does not promote animal trading.

Now we know a little more about how Ma spends his one thousand and one nights, and it’s not just gobbling one company after another to expand the size — and allure to investors — of his mighty e-commerce conglomerate.

Three months ago, Ma decided to pay 1.2 billion yuan (US$195 million) for a 51 percent stake in Guangzhou Evergrande football club the morning after he had a few rounds of drinks with Evergrande chairman Hui Ka Yan. Ma said he knew next to nothing about football, but he saw a perfect marketing platform for his Taobao business.

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EJ Insight writer

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