Japan’s Softbank Group said Monday that Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has resigned from its board, a role that he held for 13 years, on the same day that it announced a JPY 500 billion ($4.7 billion) share buyback.

Why it matters: Ma’s resignation from the Softbank board is a continuation of his ongoing retreat from business to focus on philanthropy, and is the latest departure by a high-profile ally of Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son.

  • Softbank’s Vision Fund lost billions last year when its big bet on Wework imploded. The company’s other flagship investment, Indian hotel chain Oyo, began massive layoffs after the Covid-19 outbreak all but immobilized global travel.
  • Softbank is buying back shares to bolster its stock price after its portfolio of startup investments lost value.
  • Tadashi Yanai, founder and CEO of Uniqlo parent Fast Retailing, resigned in December from the company’s board to focus on his fashion business as Softbank battled with the fallout from Wework’s failed IPO.

Details: Ma’s role as a board director will expire on June 25, according to Softbank’s Monday announcement.

  • Three new members were nominated and the final election, pending shareholder approval, will be held on June 25.
  • The three board members proposed are Softbank chief financial officer Yoshimoto Goto, Lip-Bu Tan, CEO of chip design software firm Cadence Design Systems and chairman of venture capital firm Walden International, and Yuko Kawamoto, a professor at Waseda Business School. Tan and Kawamoto are external directors and Kawamoto will be the only female board member.
  • Softbank will buy as many as 135 million shares or about 6.7% of total shares by March 2021, according to a separate statement released on Monday.

Context: Jack Ma stepped down in September from his day-to-day role at the e-commerce giant he founded in 1999.

  • Ma, once an English teacher in Hangzhou, has been devoting himself to education during his retirement. During the coronavirus outbreak, he has donated through his charity foundation testing kits and masks to countries afflicted by Covid-19 including the US, all of Africa, Italy, and Spain.
  • Son is known for his early investments in internet giants Alibaba and Yahoo!.

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Emma Lee

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.