Update: Following the publication of this story, Softbank officially confirmed on Friday, 28 January that Marcelo Claure is leaving the company, although a departure date has not been set. Michel Combes has been appointed CEO of SoftBank Group International, the other position held by Claure, and will take over Claure's duties at SBGI.
Softbank COO Marcelo Claure is in serious talks to leave the company and may depart within another month or so, according to a Reuters report. The reason? He wants US$2 billion in compensation for the contributions he's made to Softbank over the last few years. While the demanded amount was earlier reported to be spread out over the next several years, latest reports suggest that he may have asked for as much as US$1 billion for his 2021 pay alone.
His threatened departure is the culmination of months of back-and-forth over his compensation, which is reportedly the second highest in the company - Claure's salary in 2020 was $17 million - and also among the highest in Softbank's home market of Japan, where Softbank is listed.
Claure has certainly been instrumental in cleaning up some of Softbank's messier acquisitions. He was behind the successful turnaround of Sprint and its subsequent sale to T-Mobile in 2020, and also the listing of WeWork in 2021. However, Softbank's had a difficult year. Even though the company saw several successes, including the WeWork listing and the massive profit from DoorDash, its investments were badly hit by China's crackdown on technology companies. Its attempt to sell another portfolio company, chip designer Arm, was also stopped by US regulators.
So it's not surprising that Softbank management, including CEO and founder Masayoshi Son, have been pushing back on Claure's demands. One New York Times report last month suggested that while the Softbank leadership is willing to increase his pay to tens of millions, US$2 billion - even spread out over a few years - is too much for stakeholders to stomach, especially in Japan, where corporate culture frowns upon massive executive compensation.