The Dealmaker Driving Alibaba's IPO

Tsai helped build the company—now he has to sell it to investors

At 4:30 on a May morning, Joseph Tsai and three other executives of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. gathered at a Hong Kong office. With the U.S. stock market just closed, it was time to submit the Chinese e-commerce giant’s prospectus for its initial public offering to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. With bottles of Champagne at the ready, each executive typed a word of the company’s name on a computer. All four then hit the button, sending the 340-page document that began a process that’s likely to culminate soon in what may be the largest initial public offering ever in the U.S.

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