Back in the summer of 1999, Duncan Clark, a former Morgan Stanley investment banker, first met the e-commerce goliath’s legendary founder Jack Ma. He became an adviser to Alibaba and helped with its international expansion efforts. A year later, Ma granted him the right to buy a few hundred thousand shares for 30 cents each. But when the deadline was up to buy the shares in 2003, Clark decided not to buy the shares in what he calls “an error of colossal proportions,” in his new book, “Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built.” By the time of Alibaba’s IPO in 2014, those shares would have been worth $30 million.
One of the ways that Clark coped with that mistake was to write the book, which he says has been “(somewhat) cathartic,” and to console himself with exploring the stories of others who missed out on Alibaba’s future success. For example, Goldman Sachs sold off its entire 33% stake in 2004. That stake, which cost the bank $3.3 million in 1999, would have been worth more than $12.5 billion at the time of the IPO.