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SoftBank hands new roles to two Vision Fund managing partners

The executive reshuffle signals a heightened focus on SoftBank’s senior ranks in a period of turbulence for the Japanese conglomerate.

Bloomberg|
Last Updated: May 30, 2020, 10.22 AM IST
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AFP
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The company reported the biggest annual loss in its history this month as Vision Fund portfolio companies lost value, and it’s been facing pressure from hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. to bolster governance and buy back stock.
By Eyk Henning and Gillian Tan

SoftBank Group Corp. has named Akshay Naheta senior vice president, moving the Vision Fund managing partner to a new role as the company looks for ways to improve its governance and stem losses, according to people familiar with the matter.

Abu Dhabi-based Naheta will assist SoftBank founder and Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son in managing the conglomerate’s investments function and will provide strategic advice to its global management team, said some of the people, who asked not to be identified because the appointment isn’t yet public. Naheta will start his new role in June, one of them said.

Another Vision Fund managing partner, Tokyo-based Kentaro Matsui, will transition to a senior advisory role at SoftBank Group, one of the people said. The moves were mutual decisions and part of an effort to refine the originally $100 billion fund’s operating model, the person added. Both Matsui and Naheta -- whose previous roles were focused on Asia and the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions, respectively -- are expected to continue to work on select Vision Fund activities.

A spokeswoman for SoftBank and a spokesman for SoftBank’s Vision Fund declined to comment. The senior vice president title at SoftBank Group is held by the likes of its chief financial officer and chief legal officer.

The executive reshuffle signals a heightened focus on SoftBank’s senior ranks in a period of turbulence for the Japanese conglomerate. The company reported the biggest annual loss in its history this month as Vision Fund portfolio companies lost value, and it’s been facing pressure from hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. to bolster governance and buy back stock.

Naheta, who oversaw investments in the likes of chip designer Nvidia Corp., pharmaceutical company Roivant Sciences Ltd. and German online car trader Auto1, is close to Middle Eastern investor Mubadala Investment Co. and had been working on raising funds for a second Vision Fund, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Matsui, who focused on investments in China, oversaw the Vision Fund’s bets on companies including Full Truck Alliance and Ping An Good Doctor.

Potential Layoffs
SoftBank’s Vision Fund is weighing job cuts that could affect about 10% of the company’s workforce after reporting about $18 billion in losses from the declining value of its startups, people familiar with the matter have said. In recent weeks, a separate SoftBank unit, SoftBank Group International, cut roughly 10% of staff.

SoftBank earlier this month said it plans to spend as much as 500 billion yen ($4.6 billion) to buy back shares through next March, on top of an existing repurchase plan of the same size. The conglomerate is accelerating efforts to raise cash and is closing in on a deal to sell about $20 billion of its stock in T-Mobile US Inc., people familiar with the matter said previously.

Before joining the Vision Fund, Naheta was managing partner of investment firm Knight Assets & Co. and head of principal strategies at Deutsche Bank AG. Matsui previously worked for Mizuho Securities Co. where he advised on some of SoftBank’s largest bets, including Arm, Vodafone Japan and Sprint.

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