06/02/2011 09:40 am ET Updated Aug 02, 2011

Jack Ma: Split Yahoo Into 'Smaller Pieces'

Jack Ma has a suggestion for Yahoo: Break up into smaller pieces.

Ma, the CEO of Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, spoke with Kara Swisher at the All Things Digital Conference on Wednesday night, and had a few things to say about Yahoo, which owns 43 percent of Alibaba.

Asked by Swisher what the struggling Yahoo should do to get back on its feet, Ma demurred at first, telling her that it's not "easy" to turn around a company. Pressed, Ma came up with one solution.

"Maybe split it into smaller pieces," he said of the company.

Relations between Yahoo and Alibaba have been uncomfortable in the past few years, as Ma has tried to get Yahoo to sell some of its share back to Alibaba to no avail. Alibaba drew scrutiny when ownership of online payment business Alipay was transferred 100 percent to a new company owned by Jack Ma in the fall. Yahoo claimed it had no knowledge of the transfer until this March. Reuters reports the companies may finally have come to an agreement on the matter.

Asked about the entire controversy, Ma compared the negotiations to "peace talks at the United Nations," and affirmed again that Yahoo's board must have known what had happened with Alipay at the time.

"It's complicated," he said. "I'm optimistic."

According to Ma, though he and Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz have had some "tough days," the two have been "working on it." Asked where the trouble initiated, Ma stated that Bartz had a different view of how to operate in China.

"I think Yahoo did a pretty good job in the States, but in China probably not that good," he said. "We're trying to turn that around. We will be focused on the small-to-medium business, and on e-commerce. They have different ideas."

Ma also mentioned he would definitely consider buying Yahoo one day.

"I would love to," he said. "If someone would lend me the money. Buying things is fine, but making things is more fun."