Alibaba's Jack Ma Ends Hollywood Visit

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Several execs had hoped to meet with China's richest man but there was confusion about his schedule

Alibaba founder Jack Ma has ended his whirlwind tour of Hollywood without meeting with several executives who had hoped for some face time, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Although some top industry execs expected to meet with Ma during the latter half of his visit to Hollywood this week and some merely hoped for a meeting, there appears to have been confusion about Ma's schedule.

Bob Christie, a recently hired spokesman for Alibaba, said on Thursday that Ma attended a scheduled town hall meeting with about 250 staff in Northern California. He said Ma was not called back to Beijing, as some in the film industry believed.

"Did meetings get shuffled around? Could have been but saying there was some urgency and he had to go back to Beijing is not correct," Christie said. He declined to provide details about who met with Ma during his visit to Los Angeles or whether any of the executive team accompanying Ma in fact had to return to Beijing, as some in the industry believed was the reason for canceled meetings.

It is known that Ma met with executives from Sony Pictures as well as Paramount's Brad Grey, and he attended a basketball game with WME's Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell.

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Some members of Ma's entourage are staying in Los Angeles, with some scheduled to attend a dinner on Thursday night at the Toscana Restaurant in Brentwood organized by Sony executive Dede Nickerson. Those invited to that dinner are said to include Tristar head Tom Rothman and several agents and other executives. 

The group traveling with Ma includes Zhang Qiang, CEO of Alibaba Pictures; Jet Li, who is on the board;  Zhang Wei, senior vp of the Alibaba group; and Sun Jian Lan, a consultant. 

According to a number of Hollywood sources who downplayed the significance of the Alibaba meetings, the talks were very preliminary and involved possible collaborations on some films and also securing content for Alibaba's VOD service. Ma was also reportedly eyeing a 37 percent stake in Lionsgate. 

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Given Alibaba's heft — the company's record-setting stock listing in September raised an estimated $25 billion — and constant speculation about potential Chinese acquisitions of Hollywood properties, there was great interest in Ma's movements in L.A.

The group met with Sony execs earlier in the week. Ma and Li were also spotted at a Los Angeles Lakers game with WME's Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell.

Christie confirmed that there has been great interest in Ma's movements in Hollywood, saying "the phone has been ringing off the hook."

Updated to include statement from Ma spokesperson and clarification of Ma schedule.