Alibaba’s Jack Ma Steps Down From SoftBank

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On Monday, Japanese multinational conglomerate SoftBank Group announced that Board Director Jack Ma would be stepping down, effective June 25th. This decision comes as SoftBank reports historic losses.

Stepping Down and Stepping Back

Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, has served for thirteen years on the Board of SoftBank. Last year, Ma resigned as Chairman of Alibaba, and has slowly been moving away from the business world to focus more on his philanthropic ventures. The Chinese billionaire, who has an estimated net worth of $37.2 billion, is now stepping down from his role at SoftBank, and is rumored to be considering a departure from the Board of Alibaba as well.

Close Business Ties

SoftBank Group Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son has had a long and close relationship with Jack Ma. In 2000, SoftBank was one of the first investors in Ma’s Alibaba, an online retail/wholesale platform and cloud-computing service. Today, SoftBank controls about 25% of Alibaba shares, valued around $100 billion.

Ma and Son’s relationship seems to remain strong, with Son expressing respect for his departing business partner. “Jack Ma is for me my friend and comrade,” Son recently commented, adding that the two meet for dinner at least once a month to discuss both business and personal life. Speaking through a translator, Son added, “We will remain friends for the rest of our lives, I believe.”

SoftBank Reports Historic Losses

SoftBank Group has had a difficult year, hit by risky investments as well as the coronavirus pandemic. The company has reported record losses, with an annual operating loss of 1.36 trillion Yen, or $12.7 billion USD.

Most of these losses are the result of Vision Fund, SoftBank’s tech investment division. The abysmal performance of Uber and WeWork, both assets of Vision Fund, resulted in about $17.7 billion in losses.

In an attempt to shore up its bottom line, SoftBank announced Monday that it would be buying back about $4.7 billion of its own shares.

But Ma’s departure from SoftBank is likely not a result of the company’s most recent challenges. He has clearly taken steps to drift away from the business world in the past year and the recent crisis is less likely the cause for Ma’s departure than a catalyst for a long-planned move.