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Joe Tsai ’86, ’90JD: Amazon who?

When I read last year that a "mysterious Taiwan-born lawyer and executive," Joe Tsai ’86, ’90JD, "has been revealed as the 'hidden hero' behind the success of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba," I had one question:

What is Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba?

Along comes the New York Times to enlighten me.

"Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant" (the epithet is apparently de rigeur), "dwarfs by sales volume—$160 billion in 2012 compared with $86 billion for Amazon," the Times says in a January 13 profile of "The Man Behind Alibaba's Eventual IPO."

That initial public offering, which is not yet scheduled, will likely be the largest of this generation, the Times predicts. Bigger than Facebook. Bigger than Google.

Tsai is not Alibaba's CEO, and "you would be forgiven if you have never heard of him," the Times notes. But as executive vice chairman, he "is making the big decisions on the IPO. And that has made him Mr. Popularity" on Wall Street, where Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are lining up for a shot at "billions of dollars in fees" for underwriting the offering.

Tsai asked Alibaba founder Jack Ma for a job in 1999, when he was an investment manager making $700,000 a year, according to Want China Times. Ma offered him less than $100 a month. Tsai accepted the offer.

Now his shares of Alibaba are worth about $2 billion.

“Nobody really is obsessed with an IPO,” Tsai tells the New York Times. You would be forgiven if you suspect otherwise.

Filed under Joe Tsai, Alibaba
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