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IPOs: Alibaba and the performing Virgin

At $25 billion, Alibaba’s IPO, completed last month, is the biggest in history. Its first day pop of 36.3% was the biggest ever for any IPO of over $10 billion.

Jack Ma-300
Richard Branson-300
Jack Ma, left, and Richard Branson

And Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder and chairman, has become the most talked about man in business as befits the newly minted owner of a fortune estimated at well over $20 billion.

Euromoney worries about what lessons other entrepreneurs might now draw from the former English teacher’s extraordinary success. The business news is full of Ma’s interests, from overseeing mass weddings of Alibaba employees, to performing card tricks and singing to the massed ranks of his staff in stadium-size gatherings.

If the YouTube clip of his punked up rendition of the Lion King theme isn’t the next Gangnam style it won’t be for want of views from bankers and CEOs around the world.

Ma settles easily into the mould of slightly kooky billionaire chairman of an internet company.

As Euromoney went press, speculation was mounting that the IPO of Virgin Money might be brought forward. It will be a smaller deal than Alibaba: valuing the whole company at around £2 billion. Euromoney dreads to imagine how Richard Branson, whose Virgin Group owns 47% of the remodeled Northern Rock, might be tempted to outdo Ma’s Lion King. It might be a blessing, however, if he could broadcast his performance from outer space.