Nikesh Arora quits as president and COO of SoftBank

22 June 2016 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

Nikesh Arora, who had been expected to take over leadership of SoftBank from founder Masayoshi Son, has left his role as president and chief operating officer of the company.

The reason, said Son in a statement to shareholders, is that the 58-year-old founder does not want to retire as planned when he is 60.

“I had hoped to hand over the reins of SoftBank to him on my 60th birthday, but I feel my work is not done,” said Son.

In compensation, Arora – formerly with Google, where he was chief business officer – will “assume an advisory role” from July 1. He was paid $208 million during his two years with SoftBank.

Arora is also an adviser to private equity investor Silver Lake, whose interests include Chinese trading firm Alibaba, satellite operator Intelsat and security specialist Symantec.

SoftBank owns a controlling stake in Sprint, the troubled US mobile operator. Sprint’s shares rose in price on the day of Arora’s departure, starting at $3.86, peaking at $4.40 and closing at $4.16.

“Nikesh and I have been partners in creating SoftBank 2.0. He has been able to help think through our vision, future growth plans and articulate the SoftBank strategy,” said Son. “He brought world class execution skills to SoftBank, as evidenced in our myriad of investments over the last year, as well as the complex monetisation of our Alibaba stake, and most recently our successful sale of Supercell. I am indebted to him for his contributions.”

Son added: “I want to cement SoftBank 2.0, develop Sprint to its true potential and work on a few more crazy ideas. This will require me to be CEO for at least another five to ten years – this is not a time frame for me to keep Nikesh waiting for the top job.”

Arora invested $482 million of his own money in SoftBank when he was appointed to the job. He is 48, so will be the same age as Son is now if Son were to retire in 10 years. He has not been replaced as president and COO. Arora said on Twitter that SoftBank is “his [Son’s] creation & intimately linked to his identity”. Son said about Arora: “He will continue to be a friend of SoftBank, and I will have my hand on his shoulder.”

Indian-born Arora was chief marketing officer of Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile International for three years in the early 2000s. He joined Google until 2004 and stayed for 10 years, until hired by SoftBank.