Nikesh Arora, who wrote fat cheques totalling nearly $3 billion for Indian start-ups such as Snapdeal and Ola since becoming president of SoftBank two years ago, is stepping down.
“He should be CEO of a global business, and I had hoped to hand over the reins to him on my 60th birthday,” SoftBank chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son said in a statement. “But I feel my work is not done. I want to... work on a few more crazy ideas. This will require me to be CEO for at least another five to 10 years. This is not a timeframe for me to keep Nikesh waiting for the top job.”
Last August, Arora spent $483 million to buy SoftBank shares as a measure of his commitment to his employer. He has sold those shares to Son, incurring a small loss.
Masa 2 continue 2 be CEO for 5-10 years, respect that. Learnt a lot. Clean chit from board after through review. Time for me to move on.— Nikesh Arora (@nikesharora) June 21, 2016
Arora had been under fire from some of SoftBank’s unnamed investors, who likened his investment strategy to “nothing more than throwing a dart at a dartboard”, and talked about a conflict of interest since Arora is also an advisor to private equity firm Silver Lake.
But SoftBank backed Arora to the hilt. An internal probe, whose results were disclosed on Monday, cleared Arora of all charges.
Paytm’s founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma looked worried on Twitter, saying: “@nikesharora Why o why? That’s a big setback for Indian startup ecosystem. Best wishes and hoping even bigger impact next.”
Both Arora as well as Kunal Bahl, Snapdeal’s founder and CEO, tried to soothe Sharma’s nerves. “Going to continue to support the Indian startup ecosystem....can’t change faith if you change jobs :)!” tweeted Arora.
Snapdeal’s Bahl, in an email to HT, dispelled fears of its business getting affected by Arora’s leaving SoftBank: “Nikesh has been a great supporter and mentor to our business. Softbank will continue to provide financial and strategic support to our company and the transition at Softbank will have no impact on our business.”
Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder and CEO, Ola, expressed the hope that Arora will continue to be a source of support and inspiration to the Indian startup ecosystem.
“Nikesh is such a great friend, guide and mentor to me personally. I am sure he will continue to be a source of support and inspiration to the Indian startup ecosystem. I look forward to engaging with him in his role as an advisor to SoftBank in the time ahead. SoftBank as an investor, has played a key role in Ola’s growth story and we will continue to leverage the vast network and expertise that they bring to us as partners, in our mission of building mobility for a billion Indians,” said Aggarwal.
As an indication of the 48-year-old Arora’s standing at SoftBank, Bloomberg data late last month showed his salary at $73 million a year, making him one of the highest paid executives in the world and putting him on a par with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Walt Disney’s Bob Iger.
No one was much surprised by Arora’s salary; he was handpicked by Son as his successor from Google, where he had spent 10 years and was heading global sales.
Arora will remain as an adviser to SoftBank, a role he assumes on July 1. “This will allow me to think about my next move,” he said.