Top SoftBank Exec Quits After Reported Clash Over Compensation

SoftBank Group, a Japanese investment firm, announced Friday that its chief operating officer Marcelo Claure is stepping down, following rumors that his demands for up to $1 billion in pay had sparked an internal feud. Claure, 51, a US-Bolivian businessman, “made significant contributions to SoftBank” during his nine years at the company, according to Masayoshi Son, the company’s creator.

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“We appreciate him for his efforts and wish him continued success in his future endeavors,” said Son, who has transformed the telecommunications conglomerate into a tech investment powerhouse, according to Forbes. Claure and Son have been at odds in recent months, according to Bloomberg News, as Claure has campaigned for $1 billion in salary after earning $16 million in the previous fiscal year. Claure had argued that he deserved more money and power because of his significant achievements to the company, including the turnaround and sale of Sprint’s US telecom unit and the IPO of struggling start-up WeWork, according to Bloomberg.

According to the business, Michel Combes will take over Claure’s responsibilities for SoftBank Group International and supervise the company’s operating and investment portfolio. Claure stated in the same press release that he will “forever be grateful for my experience at SoftBank.” “I am especially grateful to Masayoshi Son, who provided me with the opportunity to succeed at SoftBank and served as a mentor and friend throughout my time there,” he said.

Claure will be replaced on the board of office-sharing startup WeWork by another SoftBank representative, according to an AFP report. SoftBank cited a “difference in projected timescales” for succession when Son’s then-right-hand man Nikesh Arora left the company in 2016, just two years after being poached from a high-profile post at Google. Later, Son revealed that his desire to hold on to power for a bit longer had caused him to push away the former US tech CEO who was considered as his heir apparent.

Tokyo listed with a significant retail investor base and a holding in telco SoftBank Corp, but its Vision Fund unit is mostly focused on tech investing. SoftBank, which has operations in London and California, is centered on Son’s personality. Nikesh Arora, a former Google employee, joined SoftBank in 2014 with the intention of succeeding Son, but departed in 2016 after Son elected to stay on as CEO.

“Because Claure primarily works outside Vision Fund, the impact on SoftBank’s overall outlook is modest,” said Redex Holdings analyst Kirk Boodry. “They will lose his skills in Latam investments and as a fixer in the United States, but the latter is difficult to measure,” Boodry added.

SoftBank has become notorious for its aggressive deal making and workplace politics as its investors jockey for position, framed by Son’s soaring language about the group’s ambition to provide “happiness for everyone.”Claure’s resignation follows a slew of high-level departures from SoftBank in recent years, including Deep Nishar and Jeff Housenbold from the Vision Fund, the latter of whom left due to compensation issues.