Tim Cook-like pay for SoftBank’s Nikesh Arora

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SoftBank Group President Nikesh Arora was paid 8.04 billion yen ($73 million) for the company’s latest financial year, making him one of the top paid executives in the world for the second year in a row.

The pay package puts Arora, who joined SoftBank from Google in 2014, in the same league as Apple’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tim Cook and Walt Disney’s Bob Iger, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Arora’s compensation includes 1.56 billion yen paid by other SoftBank units, according to a proxy issued by the mobile and Internet company on Thursday.

Arora was paid 16.6 billion yen in the previous financial year, when he started working at SoftBank, setting a record for compensation in Japan. SoftBank said at the time that the pay package included a signing bonus. Arora held unvested Google stock options and other securities $76 million at the end of 2013, according to the last proxy statement before his departure.

“This seems like a lot of money by Japanese standards but there are plenty of executives overseas who get paid at the same level,” said Tomoaki Kawasaki, an analyst at Iwai Cosmo Securities Co. “Arora already has been building a track record at SoftBank with some overseas acquisitions. Having him at the company also helps attract high-grade overseas talent.”

According to Bloomberg’s executive-pay analysis, Patrick Soon-Shiong is currently the highest-paid CEO, with compensation valued at $329.7 million at NantKwest, a cancer-research company. Among non-CEOs in the US, only Blackstone Group President Hamilton Evans James had a bigger pay package than Arora. By comparison, Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs Group’s CEO, was paid $33.1 million.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai was the third highest paid executive with a pay package of $151.90 million.

Son has said that Arora is the most likely candidate to succeed him. Arora, who is responsible for global operations, plans to invest about $3 billion each year as SoftBank seeks to invest in start-ups that can become the next Alibaba Group Holding, the Chinese e-commerce company that pulled off the world’s largest initial public offering in 2014.

Tim Cook-like pay for SoftBank's Nikesh Arora

Arora has led SoftBank’s investments in India’s e-commerce provider Snapdeal.com, ride-hailing service Ola Cabs, real-estate website Housing.com and hotel-booking app Oyo Rooms. In October, SoftBank led a $1 billion fundraising round for US-based online lender Social Finance.

Arora has also made an enormous personal bet on the future of SoftBank. Last August, he said he would buy 60 billion yen of the company’s shares, worth $483 million at the time. That was the largest insider purchase by an executive in Japan for at least 12 years.

SoftBank’s stock is down about 20 per cent since Arora joined the company. The shares fell 3.7 per cent to 5,975 yen in Tokyo trading. Arora is being targeted by a group of investors who are calling on SoftBank’s board to investigate and possibly dismiss him, for a range of issues including alleged conflicts of interest. The group also cited Arora’s compensation as an area of concern, according to a letter to the board dated January 20. Son said in response to the allegations that he has “complete trust in Nikesh and one thousand per cent confidence in him.”