Second SoftBank executive plans departure from troubled conglomerate

It comes as a third executive who led WeWork investment is also reportedly in talks to leave

Feb.February 05, 2020 05:30 PM
Michael Ronen (Credit: Getty Images)

Michael Ronen (Credit: Getty Images)

A SoftBank executive who led some of the firm’s investments in the United States is in talks to leave, after expressing concerns over “issues” at the troubled conglomerate.

Michael Ronen, who joined the firm’s $100 billion Vision Fund in 2017 as a managing partner, told the Financial Times that in recent weeks he had been “negotiating the terms of my anticipated departure.” Ronen could not be immediately reached for comment.

Another executive, Michelle Horn, a McKinsey veteran who joined SoftBank last year as chief people officer, was reported last week to have left the company.

The executive departures comes as SoftBank reels from the collapse of WeWork last year, which it was forced to save with a multi-billion dollar rescue package after a planned public offering was withdrawn. Its investments in Uber and Slack, which went through lukewarm public offerings, have also been underwhelming.

A third executive, Ron Fisher, who led SoftBank’s investments in WeWork and earned a board seat at the company, is also in discussions to depart the firm, the Financial Times reported. Fisher, a close confidant of SoftBank’s charismatic CEO Masayoshi Son, joined the firm in 1995. SoftBank did not respond to a request for comment, but told the FT that Fisher is “not going anywhere.”

Following the turmoil surrounding the Vision Fund’s investments, which were largely backed by Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, SoftBank has been unable to secure expected investment for a second Vision Fund. So far, the fund has reportedly secured only non-binding commitments totalling $108 billion from investors including Apple, Microsoft and the National Bank of Kazakhstan.

A lot has changed for SoftBank in the past 12 months. Its stock price has reportedly fallen 25 percent since its high in April last year, and Son in November was forced to acknowledge “mistaken investment moves” and expressed regret over leading a more than $10 billion investment into WeWork. However, the corporation maintains immense stakes in other companies, including a 25 percent stake in Alibaba, which is valued at almost $600 billion.

For Ronen, his departure draws a stark contrast to his bullish view on SoftBank’s Vision Fund and working for Son in 2018. A 19-year veteran of Goldman Sachs where he became co-COO of the bank’s Global Technology, Media and Telecom Group, Ronen ultimately oversaw the Vision Fund’s investments in transportation startups including Getaround, GM Cruise and Nuro.

“I believe that Masayoshi Son is bending the arc of history in business,” he told New York University’s Stern Business magazine in 2018. “The size of the SoftBank Vision Fund is multiples larger than any other technology fund ever, so it’s truly historic.”

He went on, “So when Masa suggested I could work on the Vision Fund not as an advisor, but from the inside, it was compelling.”

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