Jack Ma
Jack Ma (front), the billionaire founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, reacts before receiving an honorary doctorate on business administration at the University of Hong Kong of Science and Technology in Hong Kong. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Alibaba, the Chinese Internet company planning a big initial public offering in the U.S., plans to reveal the names of the 28 people who control the firm via a unique governing structure, according to a report published Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal cited people familiar with the situation who said the company is effectively run by the 28 individuals, called the “Alibaba Partnership,” which it said is empowered to appoint the majority of board members.

The structure allows some shareholders, like CEO Jack Ma, to have more power than others, the report said. The report also noted that the unusual structure prevented the company from listing publicly in Hong Kong where such governance is prohibited.

"People have gotten their head around the idea of the visionary founder. They don't particularly like it, but they understand it," Robert Jackson, a former Treasury official who now teaches at Columbia Law School, told the Journal. "But selling a whole group of unknown [executives] is likely to be much tougher."