Planet China

Palace or profit?

Louis XIV, the Sun King, once ruled from his palace at the Château de Versailles. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s flamboyant founder, has just bought his own palace in the sun: Château de Sours in Bordeaux. Wine Spectator magazine has reported that Ma paid more than $16 million for Château de Sours, three times the value of similar wine estates. That’s small change for a man worth an estimated $21.3 billion and Ma is already funding major renovations to the property, with an unnamed source telling Decanter magazine that he plans to create ‘a mini Versailles’.

This looks like more than a vanity project, however. Ma is said to be on the lookout for other vineyards, having visited France last year with a group of his billionaire pals. The speculation is that the Chinese visitors intend to acquire 30 properties within two years, according to a source close to the group, while the wine press has noted that Ma’s Bordeaux plans coincide with Alibaba’s expansion of its wine-retail platform too.

News of the purchase prompted excitement in France, as other vineyard owners rushed forward to offer their own properties to potential Chinese buyers. “What Jack Ma brings to Bordeaux at the beginning of the Year of the Monkey is almost a guarantee for financial profit,” Li Lijuan, China marketing director of estate sales specialist Maxwell-Storrie-Baynes, told Decanter. “Chinese people like to follow the mainstream to buy things. As long as the basic direction seems to be right, they all want to follow up.”

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