Alibaba's Jack Ma Offers Yahoo Some Advice: Break Up

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By Alexei Oreskovic and Sarah McBride

PALOS VERDES, Calif./SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Alibaba founder Jack Ma didn't shed new light on his negotiations with Yahoo Inc and Softbank during an appearance at a conference on Wednesday, but he did offer some unexpected advice for Yahoo.

"Separate it...into small pieces," he replied bluntly when asked how he might manage the struggling Web portal if he were in charge.

"Running a big company is not easy, then make it smaller," Ma said on stage at the D9 conference, organized by the tech blog AllThingsD.com.

Yahoo owns 43 percent of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, which it acquired for $1 billion in 2005. The relationship between the two companies has grown strained since Carol Bartz took the CEO reins at Yahoo two years ago.

Ma's attempts to repurchase some of Yahoo's stake in his company have been rebuffed by Bartz.

The companies are currently in negotiations, along with Japan's Softbank, over how to compensate Yahoo for Alipay, an Alibaba subsidiary that was transferred to a separate entity controlled by Ma in order to meet Chinese regulations relating to foreign ownership.

Ma, a former English schoolteacher, said he was optimistic the matter would be resolved, but declined to provide a timeframe or any details about the matter.

He did offer up one other interesting view about Yahoo.

Asked if he would ever consider buying Yahoo, he said he'd "love to, if somebody could lend me the money." (Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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