On Monday, SoftBank Group Crop announced Jack Ma’s resignation from the board. Ma’s departure from the board is the latest among other high-profile allies of CEO Masayoshi Son, for instance, Tadashi Yanai. Ma also retired as Alibaba’s executive chairman in September. His resignation from SoftBank is a decision to leave formal business to focus on philanthropy. The board will expand to 13 members, and SoftBank has propositions in mind.
Ma’s resignation follows the departure of Tadashi Yanai late last year. Yanai left the board to focus on his fashion business.
SoftBank will propose three new appointments to Chief Financial Officer Yoshimoto Goto and the board, at its upcoming annual general meeting on June 25.
Keeping in mind demands to improve Board diversity, SoftBank will propose the election of Yuko Kawamoto and Lip-Bu Tan as outside directors. Yuko Kawamoto is a professor at Waseda Business School and Lip-Bu Tan is the CEO of the chip design software firm Cadence Design. If these appointments take place, Kawamoto will become its only female board member.
Activist investor Elliot Management also wants a new subcommittee to govern investment processed at the $100 billion Vision Fund.
The Fund is predicted to hit its third consecutive quarterly operating loss later on Monday. This can sink the whole group to a record loss. As a result, Son’s top-down management style is under more scrutiny than ever before.
The board largely includes SoftBank insiders and confidants. It includes the head of the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, Yasir al-Rumayyan. This makes the wealth fund the Vision Fund’s biggest outside backer. (And as we all know; the Arabians do not mess with their money.)
Nicholas Benes of The Board Director Training Institute of Japan, is of the opinion that you need multiple voices of reason to stand up to Son. With reference to SoftBank’s bad bet on WeWork, he was uncertain if four outside directors in a board of 13 could have much effect curbing Son before the next WeWork deal.
In other news, SoftBank said, “The board has approved a second 500 billion-yen ($4.7billion) tranche of share purchases, as part of a 2.5 trillion yen buy-back programme as announced in March”. This move is an attempt to increase the group’s share prices since predictions point to struggles.
As of the end of April, SoftBank has successfully bought back over 250 billion yen of its shares. Softbank will be selling down or monetising $41 billion of assets in a bid to raise cash. Thus, a likely target is the portfolio’s most valuable asset- Alibaba.