Jan 28, 2022 - Economy & Business

Marcelo Claure out as COO of SoftBank

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Marcelo Claure is out as COO of SoftBank, with sources saying he's likely to raise his own fund focused on Latin American startups.

Why it matters: There is no succession plan at one of the world's largest tech investors, at a time when its fortunes are sagging due to both market and political pressures.

  • CEO Masayoshi Son may not be too concerned, since he's only 64 years old and widely believed to be the type who plans to die at his desk. Plus, it's always been unclear if a non-Japanese person like Claure — or predecessors like Nikesh Arora — could get the job, no matter the org chart.
  • But planning is a big part of investor protection. And right now there doesn't seem to be any.

What happened: Claure wanted a lot more money, reportedly $2 billion in comp over several years, and had negotiated for months with Son.

  • A source familiar with Claure's thinking says the $2 billion figure was an opening gambit, and totally in character, but one that became more unpalatable as SoftBank shed market cap due to everything from China's tech crackdown (read: Alibaba impact) to the teetering Arm sale to stock price falls for companies like DoorDash.

The jokes: Marcelo finally found a price that Masa was unwilling to pay. He leaned in so far that his face hit Masa's boot.

The aftermath: Claure’s primary role was to lead a multibillion-dollar pool for Latin America, which now will be overseen by former Altice and Sprint boss Michel Combes.

  • There's some internal speculation that the international unit could be rolled into SoftBank Vision Fund, where Claure had little influence, but the firm isn't commenting on that.
  • No word yet on what happens to Claure's role as executive chairman of WeWork, where he's been one of three SoftBank directors.
  • Don't be surprised if Claure's new fund includes a cornerstone commitment from Masa Son personally or from SoftBank as an institution. Or if much of SoftBank's Latin America investing team joins Claure's new shop.

The bottom line: This is a time of change for crossover investors. And, per usual, SoftBank is leading that pack.

Of note: Following publication, the FT reported that Claure has a noncompete agreement with SoftBank. Axios has been unable to get confirmation from Softbank officials, but has heard the same from multiple sources, including that it's a two-year noncompete that ensures Claure continues to get economics in some existing SoftBank investments.

  • That agreement may prevent Claure from raising capital to invest in Latin American startups, but possibly may allow him to engage in certain crypto or Web3 activities.

Editors’ note: This story has been updated with additional reporting about Claure’s noncompete agreement.

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