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Misra planted negative stories against Nikesh Arora to damage his reputation in co

The campaign involved private intelligence operatives, negative leaks to journalists and even a ‘honey trap’ blackmail attempt, which was foiled when the target did not comply, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Agencies | Updated on: Saturday, February 29, 2020, 01:17 AM IST

Nikesh Arora, left, with Masayoshi Son at a SoftBank event in October 2015.  | Twitter @HedgeFundRisk
Nikesh Arora, left, with Masayoshi Son at a SoftBank event in October 2015. | Twitter @HedgeFundRisk
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Mumbai: The head of SoftBank’s Vision Fund Rajeev Misra identified two high-ranking colleagues as obstacles in his pursuit of power to lead the company’s $100 billion tech fund after he joined the company in 2015.

And so, the former Wall Street banker set about orchestrating a campaign of sabotage to create suspicion around the men and topple them from their posts, according to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, which cited sources with knowledge of the matter, as well as emails and other records, reports The Real Deal.

The campaign involved private intelligence operatives, negative leaks to journalists and even a ‘honey trap’ blackmail attempt, which was foiled when the target did not comply, the Journal reported. The company’s Vision Fund is the primary backer of several high-profile real estate startups, including Compass, WeWork, Katerra and View.

The plan was put into action in 2015 after Misra hired Italian businessman Alessandro Benedetti, who was experienced with hackers and intelligence operatives. Misra reportedly paid him $500,000 up front. The pair would sometimes meet in London, where Misra is based, and Benedetti was given a cellphone to be used for discussing the plot, according to WSJ.

From there, Benedetti reportedly worked with a public-relations firm to leak negative information about Nikesh Arora and Alok Sama to journalists, and arranged an unsuccessful ‘honey trap’ attempt against Arora in Tokyo, among other alleged plots.

Misra disputes the account. “These are old allegations which contain a series of falsehoods that have been consistently denied,” a spokesman for Misra told the Journal. Both Arora and Sama have since left SoftBank.

A spokesperson said the company had spent several years trying to get to the bottom of who was behind a “campaign of falsehoods against SoftBank Group and certain former employees,” and would investigate the Journal’s findingsNikesh Arora left Softbank in 2016, while Alok Sama quit in 2019. Currently, Arora is the CEO of Palo Alto Networks, and Sama is a senior advisor at Warburg Pincus. Softbank has come under criticism and is going through a rough patch as several investments made by Vision Fund have not done well. Softbank reported two disappointing quarters due to bad investments.

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Published on: Saturday, February 29, 2020, 06:49 AM IST