Softbank Loses Media-Driving COO Nikesh Arora As CEO Pledges To Stay

Hollywood could feel some ripple effects from today’s news that Nikesh Arora is stepping down as president and COO of Japan’s Softbank Group.

The former Google exec who joined Softbank in 2014 drove many of its media deals including investments in Legendary Entertainment, WME-IMG, DramaFever, and Sprint. The company looked seriously at DreamWorks Animation and Universal Music Group.

What’s more, Arora was the heir apparent to founder and CEO Masayoshi Son.

But investors chafed at the company’s direction. Its shares, which trade in Tokyo, have lost a quarter of their value over the last two years. The company recently sold part of its stake in Chinese e-retailer Alibaba Group and agreed to sell its holdings in Finland’s Supercell which makes the mobile game “Clash of Clans.”

Many also objected to Arora’s status as one of the world’s highest paid execs. He made $73 million last year and $135 million in 2014 The Wall Street Journal says.

CEO Son says that although he had “hoped to hand over the reins of SoftBank to him on my 60th birthday ” he decided that “my work is not done. I want to cement SoftBank 2.0, develop Sprint to its true potential and work on a few more crazy ideas. This will require me to be CEO for at least another five to ten years – this is not a time frame for me to keep Nikesh waiting for the top job.”

Arora will become an advisor to Softbank while he “zeroes in on his next challenge,” Son says. “He will continue to be friend of SoftBank, and I will have my hand on his shoulder.”

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