Marcelo Claure leaves SoftBank
SoftBank announced on Friday that Marcelo Claure, a top aide to company founder Masayoshi Son, will step down as chief operating officer. The exit comes after a dispute over about $2 billion in possible compensation.
The Japanese conglomerate said Michel Combes, former chief executive of communications company Altice and chairman of SoftBank Group International, will take over from Mr. Claure as head of SoftBank’s international operations.
In a statement, SoftBank said Mr. Claure and the bank had “mutually agreed to part ways after a successful nine-year partnership.”
Mr. Son said in the same statement, “Marcelo has made many contributions to SoftBank during his time here, and we thank him for his dedication and wish him continued success.” He added: “I have great confidence in Michel Combes and the talented team at SoftBank to continue the great work we have underway at SBGI.”
Mr. Claure joined SoftBank in 2017 after leading telecommunications company Sprint. In just a few years, he became a close confidant of Mr. Son and played a singular role at SoftBank, which made huge investments in start-ups such as WeWork and Uber. He frequently unraveled messy investments, sought out lucrative opportunities, and courted start-up founders.
The disagreement over his future compensation has unfolded in recent months, The New York Times reported in December. Mr. Son and other SoftBank executives balked at Mr. Claure’s request, fearing it would upset investors in Japan, where such large payouts are frowned upon. Mr Claure was already one of the highest paid executives in the country, earning $17 million in 2020.
He privately told people inside and outside the company that he had a deal with SoftBank for a big payday for various cleanup jobs, including turning around SoftBank’s investment in WeWork, the office space leasing giant, which went public in October, as well as the future value it could bring to SoftBank.
Mr. Claure has played a pivotal role at WeWork, taking over as executive chairman after its failed IPO in 2019. He negotiated directly with WeWork co-founder and chief executive Adam Neumann a severance package. departure that paid Mr. Neumann about $180 million to give up his voting rights on the company.
Mr. Claure then helped recruit Sandeep Mathrani, a veteran in the real estate industry, to be the managing director of WeWork, which eventually went public through a special-purpose acquisition company. Mr. Claure is expected to step down from the WeWork board as part of his departure from SoftBank, a person familiar with his plans has said.
But Mr Claure will remain on the boards of T-Mobile, which merged with Sprint in 2020, and the company resulting from the merger of the TV content business of Grupo Televisa and Univision Communications, a deal that will should be concluded soon, according to the two people familiar with the negotiations of his departure. Mr. Claure will also retain his personal interests in T-Mobile and the merged entity.
Mr. Claure’s personal investments have been a source of consternation to some SoftBank executives. Although the conglomerate has cleared its transactions, it no longer allows executives to take personal stakes in companies that SoftBank might interest before their own investments, unless they agree to sell them back to the company at their initial value.
The details of Mr. Claure’s exit package were not immediately clear. But the pair said he would be allowed to keep his stake in the profits of SoftBank’s $5 billion Latin America Fund, a company he led. His stake in the potential profits was recently estimated at between $300 million and $400 million.
SoftBank, which has a market capitalization of around $71 billion, is facing a falling stock price. Its shares have fallen about 50% over the past year as tech stocks took a hit and after a regulatory crackdown in China weighed on Chinese stocks. Alibaba, the Chinese online retail giant, is SoftBank’s largest holding.