In Depth: The Alibaba IPO

Alibaba's Jack Ma gets special gift for 50th birthday

Alibaba founder Jack Ma.
Peter Parks | AFP | Getty Images

During Alibaba's roadshow, each of the six banks underwriting the deal has been charged with arranging a day of investor meetings.

Credit Suisse kicked off Monday's meeting in New York with remarks from its CEO Brady Dougan; JPMorgan Chase arranged Tuesday's presentations to long-only fund managers in Boston.

Now, Morgan Stanley, which arranged Wednesday's meetings with investors like Tiger Global, had an additional challenge: Figure out how to celebrate the 50th birthday of Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

The investment bank, along with the other bookrunners, rang in the occasion Wednesday by giving Ma a painting done on a fan, according to a person familiar with the gift.

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The piece of art, which was framed and featured a flock of birds, has sentimental value: It's by artist Ding Hongyu, based in China's Sichuan province who features prominently in a video Alibaba has been showing investors.

In a section titled "How Alibaba Has Impacted China," several merchants who sell goods on Alibaba's platforms tell their own stories of building their business.

Ding's shop in Deyang sits about 50 miles northeast of Chengdu, the closest large city. In the video, she says she made her first sale about a month after she began posting her paintings on Alibaba's Taobao platform, which she now credits for most of her business.

"Without (Taobao), how would I sell my work in this little town?" Ding says in the video. "Who would know about me?"

Alibaba's Taobao platform processed some $189 billion in retail sales during its most recent fiscal year and is the single-largest e-commerce system connecting consumers in China.

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The same day Ma turns 50, Alibaba—the company he founded in 1999—turns 15. When Alibaba goes public on Sept. 19, it will be worth around $160 billion. Ma, himself, will reportedly be worth $22 billion.

When asked what the next 15 years held for the company, Ma told the audience at Morgan Stanley he would continue to fight "for the little guy," according to people present at the event.

The CNBC audience was asked what they would get Ma, who will be among China's five richest people when Alibaba, which competes with Amazon and eBay, goes public. A few replies:

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—By CNBC's Kayla Tausche