SoftBank COO Marcelo Claure to leave when stock has a rudimentary patch

SoftBank Corporation Corp.

9984 2.20%

said CEO Marcelo Claure, who helped resolve issues at corporate investments including WeWork Inc. and Sprint Corp., will leave the company.

Claure is the latest lieutenant for SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son to leave the Tokyo-based investment firm, run the technology-focused Vision Fund and own a large stake in the company. Chinese e-commerce company.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

TORTOISE -1.39%

SoftBank shares have more than halved since their peak last year, hit by Alibaba’s troubles with Chinese regulators and a recent sell-off in tech stocks fueled by The prospect of interest rate hikes in the US However, news of Mr. Claure’s departure following reports of tensions between him and Mr. Son boosted the stock price slightly.

In Friday trading in Tokyo, SoftBank shares closed 2.2 percent higher at 4795 yen. This is 55% below the peak reached in March 2021. SoftBank owns nearly a quarter of Alibaba as of the most recent filing, and it has been influenced by the company’s share price. China fell sharply.

Other SoftBank executives who have left include Chief Strategy Officer Katsunori Sago, who stepped down in March 2021. Meanwhile, Son’s longtime colleague Ronald Fisher has left the company’s board. company in June.

SoftBank did not give a reason for Claure’s departure. Mr. Son briefly thanked Mr. Claure for his contributions and wished him “continued success in future endeavors.” Mr. Claure described Mr. Son as a “mentor and friend throughout my tenure”.

Masahiko Ishino, an analyst at Tokai Research Institute Tokyo, said the unexplained split would likely raise investor concerns about succession plans for Son, 64, who founded SoftBank four years ago. decade.

SoftBank’s longtime strategy of pouring mountains of cash into promising young companies to create big winners has failed miserably at WeWork and is calling for scrutiny from the fund’s other investments. . Here’s a look at the Vision Fund’s structure and how its fast-paced investing strategy can expose it to risk.

Ishino said it is clear “who will be responsible for nuclear football when the President of the United States is no longer functioning. If the same thing happens to SoftBank, we don’t know who will be responsible.”

A SoftBank representative, asked for comment, referred to Mr. Son’s remarks at a shareholder meeting in June 2021. At the time, he said he was always thinking about succession and looking for candidates inside and outside the company.

Mr. Son also suggested at the meeting that he could hold the position until he was 70 or 80 years old. He cites advances in medicine and the example of Warren Buffett, who remains president and chief executive officer of

Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

at the age of 91.

Mr. Claure’s departure “means Mr. Son is becoming alone. While it is not likely to affect SoftBank’s operations, investors will likely worry that Mr. Son’s management could be a bit more dogmatic through having fewer advisers,” said Mr. Ishino. speak.

Former Sprint CEO Michel Combes will take over as chief executive officer of Mr. Claure’s SoftBank Group International, which includes SoftBank’s investments in Latin America.

A 6-foot-6-meter Bolivian, Mr. Claure first met Mr. Son in 2012, when Mr. Claure was a businessman who ran a company, Brightstar Corp., which distributed mobile phones and resells devices. used handheld devices. SoftBank eventually acquired Brightstar and put Claure in charge of Sprint, the loss-making US mobile phone provider.

Mr. Claure tried to turn Sprint around while SoftBank pursued finally successful effort to merge Sprint with

T-Mobile US Inc.

Sprint’s stock takedown include a personal investment of Mr. Claure in T-Mobile.

In May 2018 he became CEO of SoftBank Group and the following year found himself responsible for dealing with another crisis. SoftBank has a controlling stake in WeWork, the shared office company almost collapsed after a failed attempt at an initial public offering in 2019.

WeWork founder Adam Neumann, another defender of the Son, has left and Mr. Claure takes over as executive chairman. He guided the company IPO in October 2021.

According to SoftBank’s filing in Japan, Mr. Claure earned 1.795 billion yen, or $15.6 million, for the year ended March 31, 2021, an unusually high level for a Japanese company despite though not uncommon in the US.

Mr. Son has a history of training hard-working executives for top roles at SoftBank, but he would later part ways with them. In 2014, he attracted Nikesh Arora from the company then known as Google Inc. and named Mr. Arora as his successor. Two years later, Mr. Arora is gone.

Write letter for Kosaku Narioka at kosaku.narioka@wsj.com and Megumi Fujikawa at megumi.fujikawa@wsj.com

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Ian Walker

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