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Ahead of the Alibaba IPO, Founder Jack Ma Goes on Deal Spree

Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma
Alibaba Group founder Jack MaPhotograph by Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images

China’s biggest e-commerce company is going public. With a valuation that could reach $200 billion, Alibaba could be the second-largest Internet company in the world, behind only Google. Like his American counterparts, founder Jack Ma and his team are moving quickly to solidify Alibaba’s position as a conglomerate with broad reach in China’s booming entrepreneurial economy. Less EBay, more Amazon. “This company in the next five years will be totally different,” Ma said in a 2012 interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. “We want to build up a company in Chinese history that nobody has seen before.”

In the first three months of the year, Ma has been making deals at a pace that would make Marissa Mayer look lazy. Many but not all of them are aimed squarely at rival Tencent, currently considered Asia’s largest Internet company. Earlier this month, Alibaba announced it would spend HK$6.24 billion ($804 million) to take a controlling stake in ChinaVision Media, a Hong Kong-listed company that, among other things, owns the Chinese rights for mobile TV broadcasts of English Premier League soccer. This deal is a twofer: It gives Alibaba a massive library of movies, TV shows, and sports broadcasts, while keeping that programming out of Tencent’s hands.