On Monday, SoftBank Group Corp stated, Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma will resign from its board. Jack Ma’s departure is the latest high profile departure from Softbank’s board.
Ma, who retired as Alibaba’s executive chairman in September 2019, is increasingly pulling back from formal business roles to focus on philanthropy.
At its next annual general meeting on June 25, SoftBank will propose three new appointments to the board, including that of group Chief Financial Officer Yoshimoto Goto.
The number of board members is also set to expand to 13.
SoftBank is also set to propose the election of Lip-Bu Tan, CEO of chip design software firm Cadence Design Systems as well as that of Yuko Kawamoto, a professor at Waseda Business School as an outside director. Kawamoto is set to become SoftBank’s only female board member.
Changes to its board, meets a demand from activist investor Elliott Management, which has pressed SoftBank to improve board diversity; Elliott Management also wants a new subcommittee to oversee the investment process at the $100 billion Vision Fund.
SoftBank’s board largely consists of SoftBank confidants and insiders and includes Yasir al-Rumayyan, who heads the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund that is the Vision Fund’s biggest outside backer.
“Who is the voice of reason who can stand up to Son? You probably need more than one,” said Nicholas Benes of The Board Director Training Institute of Japan, a non-profit focused on corporate governance training. “I am doubtful that these four outside directors, in a board of 13, will have much effect slowing Son down before the next WeWork deal”.
Jack Ma’s exit comes in the wake of the departure of Tadashi Yanai, founder and CEO of Uniqlo parent Fast Retailing, who resigned from the board in 2019 to focus on his fashion business.
SoftBank has bought back more than 250 billion yen of its shares at the end of April. It has pledged to sell down or monetize $41 billion of assets to raise cash, with its stake in Alibaba – the portfolio’s most valuable asset – seen as a likely target.
($1 = 107.17 yen)