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SoftBank CEO’s approval rating rises despite historic loss

Son wins 96% shareholder votes, indicating tight grip on tech conglomerate.

Image source: Tuchong FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2014 file photo, SoftBank founder and Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son speaks during a news conference in Tokyo. Japanese Internet company SoftBank Group Corp., which is struggling to turn around Sprint in the U.S., is reporting a 27 percent drop in profit for the fiscal year ended March 31, compared to the previous year. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File). Image source: Tuchong

SoftBank Group Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son won an approval rating of 95.99% at a shareholder meeting last week, highlighting his tight grip over the Japanese technology conglomerate despite presiding over a historic loss.

A resolution to appoint Son and 12 other directors to the SoftBank board was approved on June 25, the details of which were disclosed in a filing on Monday. Son’s approval rating was higher than last year’s 92.85%.

All 13 members had an approval rating of more than 90%. Rajeev Misra, head of SoftBank’s near USD 100 billion Vision Fund, had the lowest rating of 93.74%.

The figures indicate Son’s control over the company despite SoftBank’s JPY 961 billion (USD 9 billion) net loss in the year ended March, the widest it has ever reported. The losses have added pressure on Son, whose reputation was already dented by a bet on US office space provider WeWork that turned sour last year.

The solid approval rating is in part thanks to Son’s large stake in SoftBank — he owns about 27%, including indirectly through asset management firms — as of March, according to public disclosures. SoftBank also completed a JPY 500 billion share buyback mid-June and has plans to buy back an additional JPY 2 trillion worth of shares. That amounts to more than 20% of SoftBank’s market capitalization on Monday.

China digest

It may also be a sign that Son’s response to demands from some shareholders, including US activist investor Elliott Management, is working. SoftBank added two independent directors and set up a committee, which includes Son and two independent directors, that will make recommendations to board appointments and compensation policies.

During last week’s shareholder meeting, Son made clear that he had no intention of leaving anytime soon. “I’m around 62 or 63 years old,” he said. “I’ll continue as CEO and chairman for another seven or eight years. By the time I’m 69, since medical science is advancing, I might say I’m roughly in my 60s and stay a little longer.”

This article first appeared on Nikkei Asian Review. It’s republished here as part of 36Kr’s ongoing partnership with Nikkei. 36Kr is KrASIA’s parent company.