SoftBank Group said today that Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba Group, will step down from its board after serving as a director for 13 years. Ma’s resignation will be effective on June 25, the date of SoftBank Group’s annual shareholder meeting.
The company did not give a reason for the resignation, but over the past year, Ma has been pulling back from business roles to focus on philanthropy. Last September, he resigned as Alibaba’s chairman, and is also expected to step down from its board at its annual general shareholder’s meeting this year.
Ma has a long business relationship with Softbank Group chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son. SoftBank was one of Alibaba’s first major backers, investing a reported $20 million in 2000, one year after the e-commerce company was founded. As of a February 2020 SEC filing, it owned about 25.1% of Alibaba shares. Its stake in Alibaba is currently worth more than $100 billion, making it SoftBank Group’s most valuable investment.
SoftBank Group’s announcements were made a few hours before it is scheduled to release a dour first quarter earnings report. The company said last month it expects its $100 billion Vision Fund to lose about $16.5 billion, due largely to the near collapse of WeWork, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on other portfolio companies, including Uber and Oyo. It is also expected to post an annual operating loss of $12.5 billion.
To lower debt and increase its cash reserves, SoftBank Group said in March that it is selling or monetizing $41 billion of its assets and buying back $4.7 billion of its shares.
Ma is the only person out of SoftBank Group’s current 11 directors who is leaving. The company also said it nominated three new board directors for election at the shareholders meeting: SoftBank Group chief financial officer Yoshimitsu Goto; Cadence Design Systems chief executive Lip-Bu Tan; and Waseda Business School professor Yuko Kawamoto.