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Jack Ma resigns from SoftBank's board of directors

Jack Ma had retired as the Executive Chairman of Alibaba in September 2019.

May 18, 2020 15:42 IST
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Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma will be stepping down from Softbank Group’s board of directors, after serving for nearly 13 years. Ma is expected to resign from the Group’s board on June 25, when the group is scheduled to convene its annual shareholder meeting.

Jack Ma had retired as the Executive Chairman of Alibaba in September 2019. His resignation from SoftBank Group comes as he attempts to pull back from formal business roles to focus on philanthropic activities. 

The Softbank Group has not given any official reason for Ma’s resignation. The news comes as the group posted record financial loss of USD 13 billion.

SoftBank's board of directors

The Softbank Group’s board of directors comprises 11 directors. The company recently proposed nomination of three new directors to the board- chief Financial Officer Yoshimoto Got, Cadence Design Systems CEO Lip-Bu Tan and Waseda Business School professor Yuko Kawamoto. The nomination of the members will be confirmed during the board’s meeting on June 25. The Group is expected to expand the number of its board members to 13. When the nominations become official, Yuko Kawamoto will become the only female member of the board. 

Jack Ma’s exit follows the resignation of another board member Tadashi Yanai, founder and CEO of Uniqlo parent Fast Retailing, who stepped down from the board in 2019 to focus on his fashion business.

Softbank Chairman Masayoshi Son’s Reaction

Softbank Chairman Masayoshi Son reacted to the development by saying that he and MA will remain friends for the rest of their lives. Jack Ma was reportedly a close ally of Masayoshi Son. Son confirmed that stepping down from the board was Ma’s own decision.

Masayoshi Son had invested about $20 million in Alibaba in 2000 and is known as one of the most influential people behind Alibaba’s growth. Son had reported conveyed his wish to invest in Alibaba after speaking to Ma for just five minutes. Alibaba at that time had zero revenue. And today, Alibaba’s market value stands at a whopping $570 billion. The company also accounts for at least 65 percent of SoftBank’s shareholder value. 

Background 

The Softbank Group, especially its top-down management style, has been under intense scrutiny of its investors after it reported its third consecutive quarterly operating loss on May 18, 2020. 

One of the Group’s investors, Elliott Management, had been pressing for it to improve its board diversity and it has also been urging for the creation of a new subcommittee to oversee the investment process at the $100 billion Vision Fund.

SoftBank board had earlier approved a second 500 billion yen ($4.7 billion) tranche of share purchases, as a part of a 2.5 trillion yen buyback programme, which was announced in March to increase the group's share price.

Besides this, SoftBank bought back more than 250 billion yen worth shares in April and it has pledged to sell down $41 billion of assets to raise cash. Its stake in Alibaba, its most valuable asset, is seen to be the likely target.

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