SoftBank COO Marcelo Claure to step down after dispute over compensation -source

Sprint Chief Executive Officer Marcelo Claure departs a hearing at Manhattan Federal Court during the T-Mobile/Sprint federal case in New York City, New York, U.S., January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

(Reuters) -SoftBank Group Corp Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure is in advanced talks to leave the Japanese conglomerate, after a fallout with founder Masayoshi Son over his pay, a person familiar with the matter said.

Claure's departure is expected to be announced in Tokyo on Friday morning, the source said, requesting anonymity as the discussions are confidential.

At SoftBank International, Claure’s deputy Michel Combes is expected to take over his duties, the source said.

Claure, who was already one of the highest paid executives at the Japanese tech giant after earning a pay package of $17 million in 2020, has been in talks to leave SoftBank for several months and may soon launch his own investment firm, earlier media reports indicated.

Executive compensation at publicly listed Japanese companies is typically capped at a certain level, as large payouts to top management in the country are frowned upon by investors.

Claure, who has spent several years inside SoftBank cleaning up messy investments such as wireless carrier Sprint and office-sharing company WeWork, had expected to be paid billions of dollars in compensation over the years, while SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son was looking to pay him a much smaller sum, the source added.

Son had discussed a potential structure that could have allowed Claure to be paid much more than his existing pay package, but he never committed to it in writing, resulting in a clash with Claure that led to his decision to resign imminently, the source said.

SoftBank and Claure did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Claure's impending exit would add to a string of top-level departures from SoftBank over the past few years. Nikesh Arora, a former top executive at Google who joined SoftBank in 2014 to eventually succeed Son, left in 2016 after Son decided to continue running SoftBank.

Alok Sama, another top Son lieutenant, left in 2019. Jeff Housenbold, who led many of the Vision Fund’s successful investments, left last year. Housenbold also left SoftBank for compensation reasons.

Bolivian-born billionaire Claure rose through the ranks at SoftBank after the Japanese conglomerate's 2014 purchase of his company Brightstar, going on to become the top boss of Sprint which eventually merged with T-Mobile.

Claure also launched SoftBank's first $5 billion Latin American fund in 2019, at a time when no deep-pocketed investor had signed big checks for startups in the region.

He also runs the Bolivian football team Club Bolivar and serves as the executive chairman of WeWork.

CNBC reported the news earlier on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Writing by Anirban Sen; Editing by Devika Syamnath, Aditya Soni and David Gregorio)

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