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SoftBank’s first female director to leave after her son’s challenge

(Bloomberg) – Yuko Kawamoto, director of SoftBank Group Corp., plans to step down from the company’s board of directors in June, removing an open board member who has come into conflict with controversial founder Masayoshi Son over governance issues. Kawamoto, a professor at Waseda University, will be stepping down on June 23 after just a year in the role, SoftBank said in a statement Friday. She was the first woman on the board and the only female member, although another was nominated. In an unusual move, Kawamoto wrote a long note about her time at SoftBank that was posted on the company’s website. While she praised Son for his decision-making, speed, and willingness to change his mind, she also said the company needs more internal controls, better governance, and more people to stand up to Son. “SBG needs to formulate a form of governance that will allow Masa to fully display his talents, which can then be incorporated into the value of shareholders,” she wrote. “This does not mean restrictions or restrictions, but rather a monitoring function that enables the company to reach its full potential.” The biggest challenge for SoftBank is creating a succession plan for the founder, Kawamoto said. She said she is stepping down after a year because of her appointment as commissioner of the National Personnel Board. In June Son’s longtime lieutenant Ronald Fisher and Simon Segars also leave Arm Ltd. from the board. Z Holdings Corp. co-chairman Kentaro Kawabe, Koei Tecmo Holdings Co. chairman Keiko Erikawa, and Morrison & Foerster’s Kenneth Siegel will take their seats after shareholders approve the appointments at a general meeting. SoftBank’s board of directors has lost several of its most independent votes in recent years, the kind of directors who could push back Son’s decisions. Shigenobu Nagamori, the outspoken founder of automaker Nidec Corp., resigned in 2017. Tadashi Yanai, CEO of Fast Retailing Co., who had served on the board since 2001 and was a rare voice of disapproval, left the company in late 2019. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. co-founder Jack Ma left the company last June after June 13th Years in office. SoftBank has been hit by a number of missteps over the past year, including a botched investment in WeWork and a risky entry into derivatives trading. Kawamoto pointed out that SoftBank often races so fast to implement Son’s ideas that the infrastructure isn’t always there to handle them. “So sometimes rules come after the decisions are made, and some might say the company has some weakness in this regard. One area where Kawamoto had a particularly sharp disagreement with Son was his personal stake in a subsidiary that made the controversial one SoftBank’s options trading program, according to those familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the details are private. Her opposition took Son by surprise and the clashes often made him angry, one respondent said. Son’s 33% personal stake in the company known as SB Northstar has also caught fire with investors who pointed to the structure as a corporate governance issue. When Son called investors and analysts after the earnings were announced in November, Son denied a conflict of interest and referred to it as compensation for his investment expertise. Other fund managers charge fees, he said. Son added that SoftBank’s board of directors clarified the structure in a vote from which he withdrew. Son’s personal stake in SoftBank’s trading unit catches fire “The fact that SoftBank made this public is pretty telling,” said Justin Tang, head of Asian research at United First Partners in Singapore, referring to Kawamoto’s letter. “It’s not exactly a dictatorship operating there.” Even so, Kawamoto praised Son, saying the company was improving. “Partly because I’ve been vocal at board meetings over the past year, I believe that an atmosphere has been created where more discussion can take place. Honestly,” Kawamoto said. “Masa is an extremely exciting person who often has the mind In fact, it was his inspiration that gave me the courage to face a new challenge and take on a difficult role in the service of the country. ”(updates with details on Kawamoto’s conflict with Son in paragraph 10) Stories like this can be found at bloomberg.com. Sign up now to stay up to date with the most trusted business news source. © 2021 Bloomberg LP