HomeBusinessRajeev Misra to Step Back From Top Executive Role at SoftBank

Rajeev Misra to Step Back From Top Executive Role at SoftBank


Rajeev Misra,

who runs


9984 0.84%

Group Corp.’s giant venture-investing arm, will step back from his role to run a new outside investment outfit, according to a company memo.

Mr. Misra came to SoftBank in 2014 and helped turn it into the biggest and most controversial technology investor in the world. With an unrivaled $100 billion to spend and a cutthroat internal culture that led to poor investment decisions, it was almost single-handedly responsible for pumping up valuations across Silicon Valley and beyond.

Mr. Misra will stay on in a reduced capacity at SoftBank, overseeing the original Vision Fund investments, while stepping back from oversight of its successor, Vision Fund 2, according to the memo, which was signed by SoftBank’s founder

Masayoshi Son.

Mr. Misra will remain as vice chairman of the group that oversees Vision Fund 2.

His changed role would follow those of several other senior SoftBank executives in recent months and deplete Mr. Son’s bench at a time when his investment empire is under pressure from the downdraft in technology valuations.

Mr. Misra didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Son said in the memo he planned to take a more direct leadership role in the running of Vision Fund 2.

Marcelo Claure,

SoftBank’s chief operating officer, announced his departure in January. Others who have left include the company’s strategy chief, Katsunori Sago; Akshay Naheta, a senior investment executive; and Deep Nishar, a Silicon Valley veteran.

Ronald Fisher,

a longtime ally of Mr. Son, recently left the board and took a reduced role.

Those executives have tried, with varying degrees of success, over the years to temper Mr. Son’s impulsive investment style. Mr. Misra, for example, lobbied internally against a huge SoftBank investment in


that ultimately lost billions of dollars in value, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Their departures leave Mr. Son with fewer dissenting voices, just as cracks are widening in his investment empire. SoftBank’s planned $40 billion sale of Arm Holdings, a chip designer, to

Nvidia Corp.

fell apart in the face of regulatory criticism, and Arm is headed for an uncertain initial public offering.

“We face a tough and rapidly evolving economic environment,” Mr. Son said in the memo. “I am full of motivation, full of confidence, and full of dreams.”

Stakes in companies including Chinese e-commerce giant

Alibaba Group Holding

have been hammered amid a broader selloff in high-growth technology shares. SoftBank told investors in May that it lost a record $13 billion in its most recent fiscal year.

Mr. Misra’s new venture is slated to be backed by a set of Abu Dhabi-based investment funds, people familiar with the matter said. He will be joined by former SoftBank employees including Mr. Naheta, one of the people said.

Mr. Misra’s ties to the emirate run deep. An Abu Dhabi government fund, Mubadala, was an anchor investor in the Vision Fund that Mr. Misra helped assemble in 2017.

Mr. Misra, 60 years old, joined SoftBank in 2014 after a long career on Wall Street, including stints at

Deutsche Bank AG


UBS Group AG

. He was known as a master of complex debt-financing structures and for chain-smoking through meetings. He quit smoking but chews betel nut, an addictive stimulant popular in South Asia.

His relationship with Mr. Son stretches back to 2006, when he raised the $16 billion in debt SoftBank needed to close the acquisition of a large cellphone carrier. At the time, the transaction was criticized as dangerously overleveraged—SoftBank had put up just $2 billion of its own money—but it worked, helping Mr. Son bounce back from the wreckage of the dot-com bust.

Mr. Son brought him on board to find money. SoftBank had overstretched itself with the problematic acquisition of U.S. cellular provider Sprint. Mr. Misra restructured the debt and eventually helped SoftBank sell off Sprint, as well as chunks of other core assets including its Japanese telecom provider and its large Alibaba holding.

His biggest impact at SoftBank was helming the Vision Fund and its successor, Vision Fund 2, which gave Mr. Son the deepest pockets in Silicon Valley. Mr. Misra oversaw an unprecedented spending spree on technology giants.

Some were initial successes, such as Korean e-commerce giant

Coupang Inc.


DoorDash Inc.

but others turned out to be flops that have been sucked down by the selloff in tech valuations in recent months. Since its inception, the Vision Fund has badly trailed the returns of the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index.

Among the flops was U.K. finance firm Greensill Capital. SoftBank was both an investor in the firm and a beneficiary of its lending. Greensill’s implosion led to widespread damage to

Credit Suisse Group AG

, a key financing partner, which later slashed its longstanding relationship with SoftBank.

A more recent dud was SoftBank’s investment in fintech company Klarna Bank AB. The Vision Fund invested a year ago, putting a $45.6 billion valuation on the popular buy-now-pay-later service. Investors are now in talks to give the company fresh cash at a $6.5 billion valuation, The Wall Street Journal has reported, which would wipe out much of the paper value of SoftBank’s stake.

Mr. Misra’s rise to the top of the Vision Fund wasn’t a traditional tale of corporate ladder-climbing. He succeeded, in part, by striking at two of his main rivals inside SoftBank with a dark-arts campaign of personal sabotage, the Journal reported in 2020.

The tactics included planting negative news stories about them, concocting a shareholder campaign to pressure SoftBank to fire them and even attempting to lure one of them into a “honey trap” of sexual blackmail, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by the Journal.

Mr. Misra denied the allegations at the time.

Write to Eliot Brown at [email protected]

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