Business|A top SoftBank deputy is leaving after a billion-dollar pay dispute.
Marcelo Claure became a close confidant of SoftBank’s founder and played a singular role at the Japanese conglomerate. He was seeking roughly $2 billion over several years.
SoftBank announced on Friday that Marcelo Claure, a top deputy to the company’s founder, Masayoshi Son, will step down as its chief operating officer. The exit comes after a dispute over roughly $2 billion in possible compensation.
The Japanese conglomerate said that Michel Combes, a former chief executive of the communications company Altice who serves as president of SoftBank Group International, would assume Mr. Claure’s duties running SoftBank’s international operations.
In a statement, SoftBank said that Mr. Claure and the bank had “mutually agreed to part ways after a successful nine-year partnership.”
Mr. Son said in the same statement, “Marcelo has made many contributions to SoftBank during his time here, and we thank him for his dedication and wish him continued success.” He added, “I have great confidence in Michel Combes and the talented SoftBank team to continue with the great work we have underway at S.B.G.I.”
Mr. Claure joined SoftBank in 2017 after running the telecom company Sprint. In just a few years, he became a close confidant of Mr. Son and played a singular role at SoftBank, which has made huge investments in start-ups including WeWork and Uber. He frequently untangled messy investments, scouted out lucrative opportunities and wooed start-up founders.
The disagreement about his compensation in coming years had unfolded in recent months, The New York Times reported in December. Mr. Son and other SoftBank executives balked at Mr. Claure’s request, fearing it would upset investors in Japan, where such big payouts are frowned on. Mr. Claure was already one of the highest-paid executives in the country, making $17 million in 2020.
He privately told people inside and outside the company that he had an agreement with SoftBank for a big payday for various cleanup jobs, including straightening out SoftBank’s investment in WeWork, the office-space leasing giant, which went public in October, as well as the future value he could bring to SoftBank.
Mr. Claure has played a central role at WeWork, taking over as executive chairman after its failed 2019 initial public offering. He negotiated directly with the WeWork co-founder and chief executive Adam Neumann on a severance package that paid Mr. Neumann roughly $180 million to give up his voting control of the company.
Mr. Claure later helped recruit Sandeep Mathrani, a veteran of the real estate business, to be the chief executive of WeWork, which ultimately went public through a special purpose acquisition company. Mr. Claure is expected to leave WeWork’s board as part of his departure from SoftBank, a person familiar with his plans said.
But Mr. Claure will remain on the boards of T-Mobile, which merged with Sprint in 2020, and the company that results from a merger of Grupo Televisa’s television content business and Univision Communications, a deal that’s expected to close soon, according to the two people familiar with the negotiations of his departure. Mr. Claure will also retain his personal stakes in T-Mobile and the merged entity.
Mr. Claure’s personal investments were a source of consternation for some SoftBank executives. Although the conglomerate did clear his transactions, it no longer allows executives to take personal stakes in companies that SoftBank may be interested in ahead of its own investments, unless they agree to sell them back to the company at their initial value.
The details of Mr. Claure’s exit package were not immediately clear. But the two people said he would be permitted to retain his stake in the profits of SoftBank’s $5 billion Latin America Fund, a venture he spearheaded. His stake in potential profits was recently estimated to be worth $300 million to $400 million.
SoftBank, which has a market capitalization of around $71 billion, is facing a drooping stock price. Its shares have fallen roughly 50 percent over the past year as tech stocks have been hit and after a regulatory crackdown in China that has weighed on Chinese stocks. Alibaba, the Chinese online retailing behemoth, is SoftBank’s largest holding.