RANCHO PALOS VERDES, June 2 - Alibaba chief Jack Ma on Wednesday portrayed himself as the good guy in a rift with major stakeholder Yahoo! and suggested the faded Internet star get its own house in order.
During an onstage chat at a premier All Things Digital conference in the California resort town of Rancho Palos Verdes, Ma likened meetings with Yahoo! to "peace talks in the United Nations" slowly moving toward an accord.
"I'm the good guy," Ma said. "I think I do the right things. Somebody has to take the responsibility to be the leader to make decisions to move things ahead."
Yahoo! notified the US Securities and Exchange Commission earlier in May that ownership of Alipay, Alibaba's payment platform, had been shifted to a Chinese firm owned mostly by Alibaba chief executive Jack Ma.
Yahoo! said the transfer was done without the knowledge or approval of Alibaba's board of directors or shareholders, which also include Japan's Softbank.
"We have been discussing that for more than three years so it is impossible that Yahoo! didn't know," Ma said.
"I heard a lot of words like I am stealing something from investors into my pocket," he continued. "How could I do that?"
Yahoo! chief executive Carol Bartz said last week that progress is being made in resolving the dispute over Alipay and Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant in which Yahoo! holds a large stake.
Ma has said Yahoo! and Softbank were informed of the transfer of ownership and it was done to comply with Chinese licensing regulations.
Yahoo! owns a 43 percent stake in Alibaba and an estimated 40 percent share of Alipay. Ma described himself as the single largest shareholder in Alibaba.
He sidestepped answering how much foreign ownership he thought best for Alibaba, saying that he wanted stock holdings to be more diversified.
Ma said his impression at his first meeting with Bartz was that she was unhappy about Yahoo! not having much success in China and that she wasn't necessarily fond of him.
"I don't want to be liked," Ma said. "I want to be respected."
"She's not happy Yahoo! was not that successful in China," Ma said of Bartz. "It I was the CEO I would not be happy; but I would be happy if Yahoo! America came back."
Interviewer Kara Swisher likened his comment to a US phrase of "minding one's own knitting," to which Ma smiled.