If SoftBank investors were already shaken by the group’s poor performance this year, a news release from the company tonight isn’t going to allay their concerns.
big news? French businessman Michel Combs, who was appointed as CEO of SoftBank Group International in January after leaving the company over a salary dispute with long-time SoftBank lieutenant Marcelo Clare, is also leaving the company.
Combs has followed Claire’s moves before. Claire was previously CEO of SoftBank-controlled Sprint from 2014 to 2018, after which Combs took over as CEO until the spring of 2020, when, much to SoftBank’s relief, Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile received regulatory approval. . (SoftBank took control of a flagging Sprint with hopes of transforming the company in 2012. Combs, meanwhile, had previously spent time as CEO of Vodafone Europe, Alcatel-Lucent and Altis, so it was a good fit for the role. was a good fit.)
Whether it qualifies or not, Combes also takes some of the credit for WeWork’s transition into a public company when WeWork merged with a blank-check company. (Claire famously stepped down as executive chairman of the shared office space company in the fall of 2019, when SoftBank, a major investor in the business, gave it a financial lifeline after plans for a traditional IPO collapsed.)
Indeed, in that SoftBank release about the management change, Combs builds on his many achievements to prepare for his next role.
Their statement reads, “It is a pleasure to work with the talented teams at MASA and SoftBank.” “I’m leaving SoftBank for what I set out to do here, including replacing Sprint and executing a merger with T-Mobile, restocking WeWork and successfully taking it public, and most recently, SoftBank Latin.” Including the integration of the US Fund into the Vision Fund, as well as overseeing SoftBank’s strategic investments in French and European portfolio companies.”
SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son is meanwhile quoted as saying: “I’d like to thank Michele for his significant contributions to SoftBank over the past five years. He has been instrumental in some of our most important investments and assets, And I wish him the best of luck for his future plans. I am delighted that he will continue to be a part of the SoftBank family while continuing to represent us on various portfolio company boards.
As for why Combs would be leaving so abruptly, the release offers nothing more than that he has “decided to leave SoftBank to pursue new opportunities.”
While Combs has been replaced by yet another SoftBank executive — Alex Clavel, a managing partner at SoftBank Group International who joined the firm nearly seven years ago — the move is sure to undermine that statement from SoftBank. That it is getting its business back on track after an injury. By external forces, from China’s actions to rising interest rates, to Russia’s war on Ukraine.
His departure marks just one, a growing number of SoftBank employees, including Claire, exit the company, but last year, seven managing partners, including its most senior managing partner, Deep Nisher, took over as a managing director. Joined General Catalyst.
Son’s longest-serving lieutenant Ronald Fischer (he joined SoftBank in 1995) and two of three managing partners at SoftBank’s Latin America fund, which announced in the spring that they would be spinning off their own venture business. More people have left in 2022.
SoftBank is poised to shrink further.
In the first half of last month, the company said it lost more money than it did in its previous fiscal year of $13.2 billion and that it would slow down the pace of new investments. The market has since tumbled, putting more pressure on many of the firm’s investments.