February 29, 2020 4:25:40 am
The leadership of Japan-based SoftBank Group Corp, which manages the $100-billion Vision Fund, has come under fire with allegations of the fund’s chief Rajeev Misra running smear campaigns against two of his former colleagues — former SoftBank COO Nikesh Arora and former SoftBank Group International CFO Alok Sama — to clear his way to the top, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
SoftBank, which is led by its chairman Masayoshi Son, was recently criticised for its investment choices including a failed attempt at listing co-working firm WeWork. As per the WSJ report, Misra — who heads the Vision Fund, which has investments in India too, including firms such as Paytm, Oyo, and others — allegedly ran campaigns to plant negative news stories against Arora and Sama, in addition to a concerted shareholder campaign to oust them.
Arora, who left SoftBank in 2016, was seen as the heir apparent to Son upon his retirement. However, he left the firm after failing to make it to the top. Sama left SoftBank in 2019.
A spokesman for Misra told WSJ: “These are old allegations which contain a series of falsehoods that have been consistently denied … Mr. Misra did not orchestrate a campaign against his former colleagues”.
A SoftBank spokeswoman was quoted by the newspaper as saying, “For several years, we have investigated a campaign of falsehoods against SoftBank Group and certain former employees in an attempt to identify those behind it. SoftBank will be reviewing the inferences made by The Wall Street Journal.”
Misra’s alleged attempts at ousting his “main rivals inside SoftBank” included teaming up with an Italian businessman Alessandro Benedetti to run the smear campaign. The news report said that Misra paid $500,000 to Benedetti in 2015. Misra’s spokesman told the publication that the $500,000 payment to Benedetti was towards an oil investment.
Benedetti, as per WSJ, was involved in setting up a honey trap for Arora, which was to be followed by sexual blackmail. Additionally, he hired a law firm to represent a few unnamed SoftBank shareholders, who alleged impropriety against Arora.
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