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SoftBank Doubles Vision Fund Chief’s Pay Despite Record Loss

Pavel Alpeyev

(Bloomberg) -- The head of SoftBank Group Corp.’s Vision Fund received a substantial increase in compensation even as the investment business delivered a $17.7 billion loss.

Rajeev Misra earned 1.61 billion yen ($15 million) in the year ended March 31, more than double his pay a year earlier, SoftBank said in a statement on Friday. The Vision Fund lost 1.9 trillion yen in the period, triggering the worst loss ever in the Japanese company’s 39-year history.

SoftBank had to write down the valuations of companies like WeWork and Uber Technologies Inc. because of business missteps and the coronavirus fallout. Its return on the fund was negative 6%, compared with 62% just a year ago. Still, Misra was SoftBank’s second-highest-paid executive last year after Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure, even though Misra received no bonus and most of his compensation was in base pay. Founder Masayoshi Son took a 9% compensation cut, earning 209 million yen.

“What kind of message is Son sending by giving Misra a raise despite the disastrous results he delivered?” said Atul Goyal, senior analyst at Jefferies Group. “The optics is just not good.”

The pay hike for Misra comes at a time when the Vision Fund is planning deep cuts in staffing. The reductions across all levels of staff could affect about 10% of the fund’s workforce of roughly 500, according to people familiar with the matter. The Vision Fund, which has stopped making new investments after spending 85% of its capital, lists 30 people as investors on its website, including all of its managing partners, partners and directors.

The fund has struggled since WeWork botched its efforts to go public last year and SoftBank stepped in to bail the company out. The Vision Fund currently manages more than 80 portfolio companies, but Son expects about 15 of the fund’s startups will likely go bankrupt while predicting another 15 will thrive.

Separately, SoftBank is moving two managing partners at the Vision Fund into new roles. Akshay Naheta will become senior vice president, assisting Son in investments and providing strategic advice. Kentaro Matsui will transition to a senior advisory role at SoftBank Group.

Claure, who helped close Sprint Corp.’s merger with T-Mobile US Inc. and is leading the effort to turn around WeWork, made 2.11 billion yen, a 17% raise. He also oversees a Latin American investment fund for SoftBank.

SoftBank declined to comment on the reasons for changes in pay.

Chief Strategy Officer Katsunori Sago earned 1.11 billion yen, a 13% increase for the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive. Ken Miyauchi, head of SoftBank’s domestic telecom operation, made 699 million yen, a 43% drop. Simon Segars, head of its ARM Holdings Plc chip unit, did not make the list because his pay dropped below 100 million yen. Segars earned 1.1 billion yen the previous year.

Ronald Fisher, Son’s long-time lieutenant and SoftBank Group vice chairman, saw his pay plunge 79% to 680 million yen. Fisher’s remuneration from the Vision Fund, where he runs the U.S. operations, totaled 1.27 billion yen, including a 767 million yen bonus. But he lost 701 million yen in compensation not related to the fund. SoftBank said the drop reflects a decline in stock price, but didn’t provide further details.

SoftBank’s disastrous bet on WeWork has been viewed internally as Fisher’s project. Before SoftBank first invested in the company in 2017, Fisher met with executives at IWG Plc, a European competitor with a much lower valuation and many more sites, according to people familiar with the matter. Fisher interpreted the unfavorable metrics as a sign of growth potential. A month later, the Vision Fund led a $4.4 billion investment round into WeWork at a $20 billion valuation.

Last year, after WeWork’s effort to go public fell apart, SoftBank stepped in to organize a bailout and put Claure in charge of turning around the business. But the pandemic has hammered its operations as workers shy away from gathering in shared office spaces. Earlier this month, SoftBank wrote down the value of its stake to $2.9 billion, more than 90% lower than its peak.

(Updates with analyst comment in fourth paragraph)

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