Alibaba buys SCMP for undisclosed sumAlibaba Group Holding, the e-commerce giant headed by billionaire Jack Ma, has agreed to buy Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP) and other affiliated media assets as the Internet tycoon follows in the footsteps of Jeff Bezos in pursuing the revival of a century-old newspaper.
Though financial terms were not disclosed, Alibaba said in a statement on Friday that the purchase will include the flagship newspaper and related businesses including the Hong Kong editions of Esquire, Elle and other magazines, and recruitment.
The Chinese company also said it will scrap the publication’s Internet pay wall and that editorial decisions will be made “in the newsroom, not in the corporate boardroom.”
The SCMP, once the envy of the industry in terms of profitability, has in recent years joined other mastheads in struggling to attract advertisers amid the rise of free publications online.
Control of the city’s premier English-language broadsheet has been unchanged since media magnate Rupert Murdoch sold most of his stake to Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok in 1993.
“Jack Ma is such an innovative and visionary figure that the future of the South China Morning Post under his control may actually be somewhat brighter,” said Peter Schloss, managing partner of CastleHill Partners, a Beijing-based advisory and investment company. “Robert Kuok has lost interest in it. Jack would come in and invigorate it to move it firmly in the digital space.”
For Alibaba, the purchase of the publication would raise the profile of its growing media empire. In June, Alibaba announced the purchase of a stake in one of China’s most influential business media companies and months later, helped set up a media and
entertainment company called CMC Holdings.
In November, Alibaba agreed to buy video service Youku Tudou to stream more content to Chinese Internet users through control of the YouTube-like site, and also invested in Paramount Pictures’ latest “Mission Impossible” movie through its Alibaba Pictures Group unit.
Alibaba’s Ma also follows Amazon’s Bezos — who bought The Washington Post in 2013 — among Internet tycoons snapping up storied brands at a time print media struggles to compete with Web-based competitors for advertising.