Japan’s richest billionaire will leave SoftBank’s board of directors

Japan’s richest businessman, founder of the Uniqlo chain of stores Tadashi Yanai will leave the board of directors of Softbank, where he was a member for 18 years. Longtime associate of the head of the company Masaesi Son wants to focus on his own business

Tadashi Yanai, the founder of the Japanese holding Fast Retailing, which owns the clothing chain Uniqlo (No. 1 in the Japanese billionaire ranking, worth $ 24.9 billion) will leave the board of directors of Softbank, where he was a member since 2001. The billionaire wants to focus on expanding its own business, the Financial Times wrote, citing a statement by Fast Retailing.

As a non-executive director on Softbank’s board, Yanai is one of the few who could openly criticize suggestions from the head of the company, his longtime ally Masaesi Son (No. 2 in Japan’s Billionaire List, worth $24 billion), Reuters noted. Despite differences of opinion on business strategy, Song was interested in keeping Yanai on the board, sources close to the company told the FT. Yanai will leave the board on December 31.

Two years ago, another of Son’s close associates, Nidec founder Shigenobu Nagamori, left Softbank’s board. Without Yanai, only two independent directors will remain on the company’s board.

Yanai’s departure comes at a time when SoftBank is struggling with the aftermath of the failed IPO attempt by co-working company WeWork. Through its Vision Fund, SoftBank invested a total of $10.6 billion in WeWork. Sohn said he misjudged the character of WeWork founder and former head Adam Neumann, and promised to strengthen corporate governance at the group’s portfolio companies. The WeWork-related crisis was preceded by Uber’s failed IPO.

According to Reuters, experts are critical of SoftBank’s governance, noting that there are few truly independent voices on the board that can question Sohn’s judgment. “They have low standards of governance,” said Nicholas Benes, head of Japan’s Institute for Board Training.

In the spring of 2019, Yanai beat Son in the ranking of Japan’s richest people for the first time in three years, displacing him from first place.

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