Author Duncan Clark has revealed in his book a surprising connection between Alibaba owner Jack Ma and an Australian family that helped him in making his dreams come true.

In “Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built,” Clark describes an incident in 1980 when an Australian electrical engineer and Communist sympathiser Ken Morley took his family for a holiday in China. On his visit, Morley met a 12-year-old Hangzhou boy by a lake who aspired to learn and practice his English. It was Morley who sowed the seeds and inspired Ma Yun to become Jack Ma, the e-commerce giant and Alibaba founder.

Clark’s book has credited the Australian family, especially the late senior Morley, for giving the world Chinese billionaire Jack Ma. “I remember the day we met him very well,” the Australian engineer’s son and Newcastle’s yoga studio owner David Morley told The Australian Financial Review. “I had gone down to the West Lake in Hangzhou to flick matches and this boy came up to me who could speak English.”

Morley and Ma started conversing and planned to meet the day following their first meeting. They planned to play frisbee in their next meeting and this was the way their friendship began. According to, the families remained close for more than three decades. Morley used to rectify errors in Ma’s English by returning the Chinese boy’s letters with corrections. Morley also used to visit Ma’s university where the latter taught English.

The book disclosed that in 1985, Morley brought Ma to Australia for an overseas trip. Morley’s son said that his father saw something in Ma. In 2004, Ma visited Morley prior to his death. Later, he sent a very touching letter that was read during his inspiration and mentor’s funeral.

The book also mentions an American tourist whose husband and father share the same name: “Jack.” The tourist suggested Ma to take up that name to build contacts. On the other hand, the author, Clark, met Ma in 1999 when he ran his online business from a small apartment and became his advisor in the early years of the company.

“Jack has this ability to make you feel that he’s speaking to you, even in a room with a few thousand people. You feel yourself swept along,” Clark told the Wall Street Journal.  “I often find it interesting when Jack is speaking to turn and see the people he’s speaking to. I’ve seen grown investors cry. He does it in English as well as Chinese.”