File image: Jack Ma, billionaire founder of Alibaba Group, arrives at the ‘Tech for Good’ summit in Paris in May 2019Alibaba founder Jack Ma is “lying low” and has “taken up painting as a hobby” according to an executive of the Chinese e-commerce giant.

“He’s lying low right now, I talk to him every day,” Joe Tsai, the company’s executive vice-chairman and Ma’s co-founder, was quoted as saying by CNBC. “He’s actually doing very, very well. He’s taken up painting as a hobby, it’s actually pretty good.”

Ma has had a tough year, as Beijing cracked down heavily on his company following his criticism of China’s regulatory system. Last November, the Chinese regulators suspended a planned $34.5bn initial public offering of Ant Group, a financial affiliate of Alibaba, just days before its trading debut.

The company had been valued at $150bn after a 2018 fundraising round, with its valuation later increasing to $280bn ahead of the IPO suspension, reported the Associated Press.

Since the incident, Ma stepped away from the spotlight.

“The idea that Jack has this enormous amount of power, I think that’s not quite right,” Tsai told CNBC. “He is just like you and me, he’s a normal individual.

“He built a tremendous company of this scale, he’s done great things for society,” he continued. “I think today he just wants to sort of say, ‘Hey, I want to focus on what I really want to spend time on,’ which is all the hobbies, all the philanthropy.”

In April, regulators fined the company $2.8bn for violating anti-monopoly rules. Asked about the fine, Tsai said that the company is “looking forward”.

“Our business is under some kind of restructuring on the financial side of things, and also in antitrust regulation. We had to pay a big fine. But we’ve gotten that behind us, so we’re looking forward,” Tsai said.