SoftBank Strategy Chief Plans Exit After Just Three Years

SoftBank Group Corp.’s Chief Strategy Officer Katsunori Sago is planning to quit after less than three years at the company, as other executives gain prominence at the Japanese investment conglomerate.

The Goldman Sachs veteran who joined SoftBank in June 2018 will resign on March 31, SoftBank said in a statement late on Friday. The Tokyo-based company was confirming an earlier report by Bloomberg News.

The 53-year-old is a key member of founder Masayoshi Son’s inner circle and something of a celebrity in Japan’s world of finance. Prior to joining SoftBank, Sago spent more than two decades at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., rising to become vice chairman of its operations in the country. During a three-year stint at state-owned Japan Post Bank Co., he spearheaded a portfolio shift away from sovereign bonds.

SoftBank Strategy Chief Plans Exit After Just Three Years

But little is known about his work at SoftBank. The company has never clearly defined his role as CSO, a position that did not exist prior to his joining. Over the past few years, he has assembled a small team of former Goldman bankers and set up an investment department in April.

“Sago-san dedicated himself to a variety of projects by bringing a whole new perspective as SBG transforms into a strategic investment holding company,” Son said in the statement. “He played a crucial part in expanding SBG’s potential as an investment company.”

Rumors about his departure began to circulate late last year as Sago seemed increasingly adrift while other Son lieutenants, including Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure and Vision Fund head Rajeev Misra, began to take more prominent roles in public markets and startup investment.

In November, SoftBank said Sago and three other directors will leave the board in an effort to increase the proportion of outside directors and improve corporate governance. The executive earned 1.11 billion yen ($10.2 million) in the year ended March 2020, a 13% increase from the previous year.

Sago’s the latest in a string of executive departures at the group. In January, Bloomberg News learned that Vision Fund managing partner Colin Fan, a former Deutsche Bank AG banker who’d focused on technology bets, was leaving along with Jeff Housenbold, the managing partner involved in its bets on startups including DoorDash Inc. and dog-walking startup Wag. Fan had overseen the fund’s investment in troubled lender Greensill Capital.

The Vision Fund decided to cut headcount by as much as 15% last year in a round of job cuts after the business reported an $18 billion loss because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The cuts disproportionately focused on employees who supported portfolio companies, people familiar with the matter said at the time. Claure’s SoftBank Group International arm reduced its staff by 26 out of 230, a person familiar with the matter said.

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