Nikesh Arora Out At SoftBank, Masayoshi Son’s Heir Apparent Steps Down


India-born Nikesh Arora, touted as heir-apparent at SoftBank, has announced his resignation from the Japanese conglomerate saying he can’t be “CEO-in-waiting past his sell-by date” as the current chief Masayoshi Son wanted to continue for 5-10 years more.

The 48-year-old former Chief Business Officer at Google decided to call it a day as his 58-year-old boss Son said he was planning to quit at the age of 60 but felt he was “still a bit too young”.

The development interestingly came just a day after Arora getting a clean-chit from a special committee set up by SoftBank to look into the allegations against him from some shareholders about his conduct and qualifications.

He was also reportedly criticised by a SoftBank investor for pumping huge money in India and one of the investment went through rough weather in a reality business-based web portal.

Arora, who has been instrumental in SoftBank’s investments in Indian entities like Snapdeal, Ola, Grofers, and Oyo Rooms, said he intends to focus more on Indian start-up ecosystem going forward.

The exit of 48-year-old Arora, who was hand-picked by Son two years ago to succeed him and is among top-paid executives globally, also coincided with one of the most profitable deals of SoftBank.

Arora will remain in an advisory role at SoftBank for a year, the company said in a statement.

Son said he would continue as CEO longer than earlier planned, but credited Arora with playing a pivotal role in deal to sell a majority stake in Supercell Oy that valued the ‘Clash of Clans’ developer at $10.2 billion (nearly Rs 67,858.05 crore).

“I was thinking of handing over my job as CEO when I turn 60, but thought maybe I’m still a bit too young, and still have energy to continue,” Son said adding Arora whom he recruited two years ago will step down to pursue a different path.

Arora in a series of tweets said, “Masa 2 continue 2 be CEO for 5-10 years, respect that. Learnt a lot. Clean chit from board after through review. Time for me to move on.” In another tweet, he said he didn’t want to be CEO in waiting “past my sell by date”. He did not comment on his next move.

“This will allow me to think about my next move,” he said.

The Banaras Hindu University-graduate wouldn’t be reappointed COO and President at the company’s shareholder general meeting on Tuesday.

Son, who founded SoftBank in 1981 and built it from a computer software distributor into one of Japan’s largest telecommunications and investment holding corporations, said Arora’s exit had nothing to do with shareholder criticism of his track record and qualifications.

Hired in 2014 after his over 10-year stint at Google, Arora was promoted to president in June last year. While at SoftBank, he spent nearly $4 billion (nearly Rs 26,611 crore) investing in startups around the world in a hunt for a break-through technology company capable of driving future growth.

Some of his deals were, however, criticised by shareholders while some others questioned his compensation and qualifications.

He received $135 million (nearly Rs 898.12 crore) pay package including a joining bonus in 2014-15, and was paid $73 million (nearly Rs 485.65 crore) last year.

SoftBank, burdened with $80 billion (nearly Rs 5.32 lakh crore) debt, has been on a selling spree in recent weeks. This month, it sold $10 billion (nearly Rs 66,527.5 crore) worth of shares in Alibaba as well as most of its shares in Japanese gaming company GungHo Online Entertainment in a deal valued at about $685 million (nearly Rs 4,557.13 crore).

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