Marcelo Claure to depart SoftBank after long-running Son dispute

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Marcelo Claure, the SoftBank executive who led a turnround at struggling office sharing group WeWork, has become the most senior person yet to quit the Japanese technology conglomerate after falling out with its founder Masayoshi Son.

Two people with direct knowledge of the matter said the Bolivian billionaire, who had been spearheading SoftBank’s $5bn Latin America investment fund, was leaving after a dispute over his pay and the group’s strategic direction.

His departure may be announced as soon as Thursday, although this timing might slip into next week as the two sides hammer out terms of his exit package. The people said that Claure’s exit deal was expected to be worth “hundreds of millions of dollars”.

SoftBank and a spokesperson for Claure declined to comment.

The departure will further focus attention on SoftBank’s plunging share price and crisis of leadership at the company beneath its powerful founder, Son. Claure’s departure will also add to concerns of “key man risk” among SoftBank investors who worry that Son, 64, has failed to identify a successor should one be needed suddenly.

SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son. Investors are concerned about the group’s future leadership © Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Shares in SoftBank have dropped 56 per cent since their peak last March, falling sharply in recent days as technology-focused stocks have sold off globally.

French telecoms executive Michel Combes would take over Claure’s duties overseeing SoftBank’s Latin American funds, its Opportunity Fund and several non-Japanese portfolio companies, one person briefed on the matter said.

Claure was recruited into SoftBank through the acquisition of his telecoms start-up Brightstar and quickly worked his way into Son’s inner circle, first serving as the chief executive of US mobile group Sprint and later orchestrating the rescue and revival of office work-sharing group WeWork.

During his tenure, Claure has repeatedly clashed with other SoftBank executives including the head of its private investing arm, Rajeev Misra, a former Deutsche Bank trader.

Claure was one of three executives, along with Misra, who were regarded as possible successors to Son. The other executive, former Goldman Sachs banker Katsunori Sago, quit as SoftBank’s strategy director last year after less than three years. Sago’s exit was preceded by the departure of the company’s chief compliance officer, chief legal officer and chief communications officer.

Most recently, Claure has been focused on building out SoftBank’s investments in Latin America after being put in charge of a $5bn fund.

The New York Times reported last month that as part of his exit negotiations, Claure had demanded a payout of up to $2bn for his involvement in turning around WeWork and selling US telecom group Sprint to rival T-Mobile.

Bloomberg reported on Thursday that Claure was in advanced talks to leave SoftBank and had asked for up to $1bn in compensation.

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