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SoftBank’s Son gives 9.1b yen payday to recruit top talent

Masayoshi Son is making top executives at SoftBank Group Corp some of the highest-paid in Japan as he recruits talent to his growing investment empire.

[TOKYO] Masayoshi Son is making top executives at SoftBank Group Corp some of the highest-paid in Japan as he recruits talent to his growing investment empire.

While Mr Son's own salary remains modest by global standards, his company paid a total of 9.1 billion yen (S$115.2 million) in compensation to six lieutenants, according documents released on Wednesday for a shareholder meeting on June 19.

In the latest example, former Goldman Sachs Group Inc executive Katsunori Sago, 51, earned 982 million yen after becoming executive vice-president and chief strategy officer in June 2018. The CEO of Nomura Holdings Inc, Japan's biggest brokerage, made 405 million yen in the year ended March 2018.

Mr Son has a history of paying top dollar to attract high-profile executives. Former SoftBank president Nikesh Arora earned 31.5 billion yen over his two-year tenure that ended in 2016, a compensation package that at the time rivalled those of Apple Inc's Tim Cook and Walt Disney Co's Bob Iger. Since then, Mr Son's hunt for global talent accelerated as he launched a US$100 billion Vision Fund to invest in the world's biggest technology companies. The fund's headcount almost doubled last fiscal year to 297, according to the filing.

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"The range of executive salaries in Japan has gone up, but compensation in the billions of yen is still unheard of beyond a handful of global companies," said Noriko Watanabe, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles, an executive search company.

"But executive pay in the billions of yen doesn't seem excessive when you consider the sheer scale of the Vision Fund" and its possible contribution to the bottom line.

Rajeev Misra, who heads the Vision Fund, earned 752 million yen, down from a year earlier. The fund has an unusual compensation structure that allows partners to share in the potentially enormous profits as well as possible losses. The scheme, which has not been made public yet, includes a US$5 billion loan to employees.

SoftBank group chief operating officer Marcelo Claure made 1.8 billion yen, a 30 per cent gain from a year ago. Mr Claure, who also heads Sprint Corp in the U.S., was named EVP in July. He also heads SoftBank's US$5 billion technology fund focused on Latin America.

Ronald Fisher, Mr Son's long-time lieutenant and SoftBank group vice-chairman, was the company's highest-paid executive with 3.27 billion yen, 62 per cent more than a year earlier. Mr Son's own salary increased 67 per cent to 229 million yen. The billionaire controls a roughly 22 per cent stake in SoftBank, which alone is worth about 2.5 trillion yen.

Ken Miyauchi, head of SoftBank's domestic telecom operation, made 1.23 billion yen, while Simon Segars, head of its ARM Holdings plc chip unit, earned 1.1 billion yen.

"You want to be seen as paying more than the previous employer, especially when you are scouting well-compensated finance professionals," said Mr Watanabe.