Ma was spotted dining with Taobao CEO Jonathan Luk and other Alibaba executives at Fuki Sushi in Palo Alto last night, and a spokesperson for the company confirmed they were in town for meetings. Another source close to the company, who requested anonymity, said Alibaba was here to meet with several big Silicon Valley companies about potential partnerships with Taobao– and that a meeting with Yahoo was specifically not on the agenda.
Ma’s issues with Yahoo and desire to buy back Yahoo’s shares in Alibaba have been well documented. Also documented is Ma’s desire to explore other US partnerships, even though the one with Yahoo has turned sour. His ecommerce and epayment properties are so dominant in China that international expansion is the natural next step.
A lot has changed since the last time Ma was in negotiations with Silicon Valley. Back then it was companies like Yahoo that were surging, while China seemed an uncertain gamble. Today, two of the five largest Internet companies are Chinese, and TaoBao and payments company Alipay are two of the hottest private assets on the global Web. As we saw with Tencent’s purchase of Riot Games this month, a decade after most Valley companies failed to do well in China, China is getting more aggressive about expanding in the US.
Carol Bartz’ loss seems to be John Donahoe’s gain. eBay’s CEO Donahoe was cozying up to Ma in China last fall, appearing on stage at a conference together, and apparently swapping caricatures. Donahoe called Ma a good friend, and Ma said, “We have the same dream, the same purpose, face the same group of SME clients… This is the case today, and even more so tomorrow. I believe Alibaba team and Taobao team are always cooperating with the eBay team, and I think in the future we will cooperate more closely.”
If you catch a sighting of the two, drop us a note at email@example.com.
[Update: Yahoo PR notes that Bartz is in Barcelona, which is interesting but seems to miss the point of the post. Alibaba has still made a point to come here looking for Valley partnerships and not meet with the one company with which it has a partnership. There are certainly other members of the board and management team who aren't in Barcelona, and considering Alibaba is one of the main forces propping up Yahoo's stock price, you'd think they'd be open to a meeting if Ma were interested. The bad blood between the two is well documented by this point. I've asked Yahoo PR for any sign that's changed. No word.]