Jack Ma told Arianna Huffington to leave the business she founded — here’s what happened next


Arianna Huffington speaks onstage in “Digital Detox” on day 2 of POPSUGAR Play/Ground on June 10, 2018 in New York City.

Brian Ach | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

When Arianna Huffington spoke at a women’s conference hosted by Alibaba and its co-founder Jack Ma, she wasn’t expecting career advice from Ma himself.

It was 2015, and Huffington had been running news website The Huffington Post for a decade and had published her 14th book “Thrive,” about stress and wellbeing, the year before.

Huffington recalls a conversation with Ma at a dinner after the event where he made a suggestion. “‘If I were you, I would leave The Huffington Post and start a company based on the views that you expressed in your speech and in your book.’ And he actually said that stress is becoming a bigger and bigger crisis everywhere,” Huffington told CNBC’s “The Brave Ones.”

“And then he ended…by saying: ‘And if you decide to do that, I’ll invest in it.’ And at the time, I really thought he was crazy. I really thought (The Huffington Post) was going to be my last act. I loved it like a third child.”

Huffington had noticed that content about sleep and work performance, as well as articles about stress and screen reduction time, did well online. “Increasingly, all these subjects began to bring us more traffic than our coverage of politics. So, I could see that the world was hungry for this conversation,” she said.

In 2016, Huffington stepped down as editor-in-chief of her online publication and launched Thrive Global, a media company and consultancy that helps corporations with their employees’ overall wellbeing, and Ma and Alibaba co-founder Joseph Tsai invested an undisclosed amount.

Thrive has since worked with companies such as Accenture, JPMorgan and SAP, and it has published articles by the likes of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who wrote about sleep, and pop star Selena Gomez, who discussed digital detoxing.

“These role models give permission to people to make these changes in their lives without feeling that if they take their foot off the accelerator for 10 minutes to meditate or to go for a walking meeting they are somehow going to fall behind,” Huffington told “The Brave Ones.”

Huffington sold The Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million in 2011. AOL became part of Verizon in 2015.

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