SoftBank on Thursday hit back at a bid by a group of investors to unseat its India-born president and chief operating officer Nikesh Arora, seen as heir apparent to the Japanese mobile giant’s billionaire founder Masayoshi Son.
The company slammed the “unsubstantiated allegations” levelled at former Google executive Arora, whom the investors said should be investigated and possibly sacked over potential conflicts of interest tied to his role as an adviser to private equity firm Silver Lake.
“The Board takes its duties seriously and is in the process of reviewing the letter,” SoftBank said in a statement on Thursday.
“I take my fiduciary responsibilities seriously and have acted appropriately and in the best interest of shareholders throughout my tenure at SoftBank and Sprint, just as I have conducted myself throughout my professional life. I am completely confident the allegations in the letter are baseless,” the statement quoted Arora as saying.
Son, one of Japan’s richest men and the chief executive of SoftBank, has referred to Arora as his likely successor.
On Thursday, he backed the former Silicon Valley executive.
“I have complete trust in Nikesh and one thousand percent confidence in him and know he will continue to do great things for SoftBank in the future,” Son said in a statement.
The unidentified group, represented by US law firm Boies Schiller & Flexner, outlined its concerns in a 11-page letter to the Tokyo-based company, suggesting conflicts of interest due to Arora’s existing role as a senior adviser to Silver Lake, Bloomberg News reported. It also suggests he may have been involved in past wrongdoing and generally poor business decisions. A separate letter from one investor to the board of Sprint Corp, which SoftBank controls, asks for his removal as a director there for similar reasons.
“Despite these issues, the SoftBank board saw fit to make Mr Arora the third-highest paid executive in the world without any track record of accomplishment at the company.”
The letter, dated January 20, has been signed by signed by Matthew Schwartz, a partner at the law firm.
Arora, a former Google Inc executive, joined SoftBank in 2011 and quickly rose to the number two position in the company. His salary made headlines last year with reports saying SoftBank was paying him $135 million.
SoftBank is also a major investor in the Indian e-commerce space, with investments in e-commerce company Snapdeal, cab ride aggregator Ola and online real estate platform Housing.com. SoftBank’s investment in India crossed the $1-billion mark a year ago. The company recently said the figure will cross $10 billion soon.
In June last year, SoftBank along with contract manufacturing giant Foxconn, partnered Bharti Enterprises with plans to invest $20 billion in solar power projects.
(With agency inputs)