SoftBank’s $100bn Vision Fund to shed 15% of staff

Linda J. Dodson

LONDON — SoftBank Group’s $100 billion Vision Fund is shedding 15% of its staff following the investment vehicle’s aggressive bets on startups that wiped $16.7 billion off its value, Nikkei has learned.

Management arm SoftBank Investment Advisers will see reductions to its 500 or so employees. This marks the first cut in the fund’s payroll, which had been expanding since 2016. The company declined to comment.

The fund’s activities go beyond pure investment, it also actively works with the 88 companies it has stakes in. It established an operating group in 2019 to improve their finances and corporate governance and an initial public offering group to support their listings. These units attracted talent from a wide array of fields.

The fund launched in 2017 as the brainchild of SoftBank Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son. It invested in a succession of growth companies around the world, including ride-hailing pioneer Uber Technologies and shared-workspace provider WeWork.

But WeWork was a major investment, and significant corporate governance and profitability problems last year lowered its notional value. The coronavirus pandemic has only added to the fund’s valuation woes.

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