Jack Ma Leaves SoftBank Board as Record Losses Loom

SoftBank Group on Monday said that Jack Ma, the co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has resigned from its board, an announcement that came as the Japanese company said it was preparing to double the money it has spent on repurchasing its own shares.

The dual announcements came just hours before SoftBank was set to announce what is widely expected to be the largest annual loss in company history, driven largely by its investment in WeWork and other technology-related companies that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s chief executive, was an early investor in Alibaba. His $20 million initial stake grew to be valued at more than $100 billion, making it one of the Japanese company’s most valuable holdings.

SoftBank has used those assets as collateral to help transform itself from a telecom company into the world’s largest and most powerful tech investor. Through the company’s $100 billion Vision Fund, financed in part with money from sovereign wealth funds in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, Mr. Son has pumped enormous amounts of capital into cutting-edge and often risky start-ups, companies that he believes have the potential to effectively monopolize entire industries.

That vision was challenged last year by the spectacular implosion of WeWork, the tech-adjacent real estate company, over allegations of mismanagement and self-dealing. The coronavirus has threatened to destroy Mr. Son’s dream entirely. It has drained huge amounts of value out of the company’s portfolio of companies, like Uber, the car sharing service, and Oyo, the Indian hospitality company, which have proven particularly susceptible to the pandemic’s effects.

In a separate announcement Monday, SoftBank said it will spend $4.7 billion toward that goal by the end of March 2021, doubling the amount it had already pledged in March.

Mr. Ma’s departure from the company’s board follows the exit late last year of Tadashi Yanai, the founder and president of Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo. Mr. Yanai was a longtime ally of Mr. Son and seen as a moderating influence on SoftBank’s exuberant founder.

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