The founder of Alibaba has purchased Château de Sours.

By James Oliver Cury
Updated May 24, 2017
Jack Ma
Credit: © ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Jack Ma failed his university entrance exams three times and worked as a teacher for years in the 1990s. This week, the Chinese tycoon—who is worth $21.5 billion—bought the Château de Sours in Bordeaux, France.

Ma, who's been compared to Bill Gates for his entrepreneurship and philanthropy, amassed his fortune as founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, an enormous e-commerce company that launched in 1999 (Yahoo owns a stake). He is one of the richest men in the world and not been afraid to spend his fortune; this is the guy who shelled out $193 million for a Hong Kong house in August of last year, making it the second-most expensive home sale in history.

Over the last two decades, the Chinese have shown enormous interest in French wineries. Businessman Peter Kwok, also from Hong Kong, purchased the Chateau Haut-Brisson in 1997, in the Bordeaux village of Saint-Emilion. More recently, entrepreneur James Zhou acquired Château Renon and fellow billionaire Chen Miaolin took over Château de Birot. Just last December Chinese wine company Changyu bought 90 percent of Château Mirefleurs, in Bordeaux, from the Castel Group.

Today, more than 100 Bordeaux chateaux are run by the Chinese and China is the largest importer of Bordeaux wines worldwide. The Bordeaux region has seen bottle prices rise and fall—there was a surge of sales in 2010 and a wine bubble in 2013—but a second bubble is unlikely because China has worked with the French government to reduce fraud, and stricter import laws have been implemented to protect French wine estates from market manipulation.

What will Ma do with the place now? First, he's keeping prior owner Martin Krajewski as a consultant. Second, he plans to make the estate his "own mini Versailles," according to Decanter, with renovations to the château's façade, courtyard, cellars, and garden. Third, Ma will work with Chinese film star Zhao Wei, who owns a St. Emilion chateau, to buy or develop other wineries in Bordeaux.