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Nikesh Arora given a clean chit after allegations of poor performance

Nikesh AroraJapanese conglomerate SoftBank Group announced that it found complaints and allegations against its president and chief operating officer Nikesh Arora to be unsubstanitated. In January, a group of investors sent letters to the boards of SoftBank and Sprint calling for a probe and possible dismissal of Arora over his investment track record and conflict of interest as a senior advisor to private equity firm Silver Lake.

“The Special Committee has concluded that the claims concerning the conduct of Mr. Arora during his tenure at SBG are without merit,” SoftBank’s statement read. The Special Committee was formed in February this year to review complaints/ allegations with the help from independent counsel at Shearman & Sterling LLP and Anderson Mori & Tomotsune.

The letter came from a US-based law firm Boies Schiller & Flexner and did not identify the investors. The investors alleged that Arora was compensated by Silver Lake for helping with potential technology company investments that were similar to the investments he made for SoftBank. It also questioned Arora’s “poor investment performance” including SoftBank’s investment in real estate portal Housing.

At the time, SoftBank Group chairman Masayoshi Son extended his support to Arora. “I have complete trust in Nikesh and one thousand percent confidence in him and know he will continue to do great things for SoftBank in the future,” Son said.

Elevation to head of global operations

Arora, currently the number two at SoftBank, is widely believed to be Son’s heir for the company. In March, SoftBank Group split into two organizations which would look into domestic and global operations. Nikesh Arora was made the CEO of the global operations. The investment securities of global subsidiaries and affiliates such as Starburst Ⅰ, Inc. (a holding company that holds the shares of Sprint Corporation) and Alibaba Group Holding Limited would be transferred to the global operations management company. In May 2015, Arora was made chief operating officer and president of the SoftBank Group.

SofBank’s investments in India

–  In January, Housing announced that it has secured a fresh round of funding  of Rs 100 crore from Softbank, its largest investor. In December 2014, Housing also raised $90 million from Softbank with participation from Falcon Edge and other unnamed investors. At the time the company was valued at Rs 1,500 crore. Since the tumultuous exit of Housing’s founder Rahul Yadav as CEO in July 2015 and subsequent restructuring in the company, Housing’svaluation has fallen to about $50 million. Housing also cut its headcount significantly after it came under new management.

– In November 2015, hyperlocal delivery service provider Grofers raised $120 million in a round of funding from SoftBank, Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner, with participation from existing investors Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital. In January, Grofers shut down its services in 9 cities citing low acceptance. The company had expanded to these Tier II cities, including Ludhiana, Bhopal, Kochi, Coimbatore and Visakhapatnam in September 2015. Grofers will now operate in 17 cities.

– In November 2015, online cab aggregator Ola  raised Series F funding worth $500 million from Baillie Gifford, Falcon Edge Capital, Tiger Global, SoftBank Group, DST Global and China’s Didi Kuaidi. In September 2015, Ola raised raised $225 million in funding from existing investors and new investors. At this time, Tiger Global invested Rs 296.9 crore, Softbank Rs 384 crore, Falcon Edge Rs 514.7 crore, while the others contributed less than Rs 25 crore each.

– In August 2015, ecommerce marketplace Snapdeal  raised $500 million in funding led by Foxconn, Alibaba and existing investor Softbank, with participation from other existing investors Temasek, BlackRock, Myriad and PremjiInvest.

– In the same month, branded budget hotel rooms service OYO Rooms  raised $100 million in a funding round led by SoftBank group and participation from existing investors Greenoaks Capital, Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed India.


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