- As part of Softbank’s takeover deal with WeWork, Softbank is cleaning house.
- Ousted CEO Adam Neumann is being offered a lucrative pay package that will also see him resign from his chairman role and sever most of his ties.
- The two co-CEOs who replaced him a few weeks ago are also reportedly out, while Softbank’s go-to fixer, COO Marcelo Claure steps in as interim chairman to search for a CEO.
- Claure is a self-made man, in all likelihood a billionaire, whose rise to success is the stuff of Hollywood legend.
- And if his life is any indication, he may be a good reason to hope that the WeWork train wreck may get back on track.
- Read more WeWork news here.
WeWork’s whirlwind collapse from $US47 billion startup to failed IPO and near bankruptcy will no doubt go down in the annals of business lore.
But now that the company has agreed to take a deal from its major investor Softbank that puts the company firmly in Softbank’s control, we’ll have to see what Act 2 brings.
Will it be the story of a spectacular turnaround?
There’s a much better chance that it could now that Softbank has reportedly installed its famed corporate fixer, Marcelo Claure, as WeWork’s interim leader.
Softbank’s deal to rescue WeWork allows co-founder and ousted CEO Adam Neumann to walk away with nearly $US1.7 billion through a combiation of selling his shares, borrowing against them and receiving special advisory fees. In exchange, Neumann must give up much of his voting rights and his role as chairman. The deal also reportedly removes the two co-CEOs who took over a few weeks ago, both of whom were hired under Neumann’s watch.
Claure is to be named interim chairman and to lead a search for a new CEO.
Claure is the COO of Softbank Group, the publicly traded holding company built Masayoshi Son and one of Son’s most trusted lieutenants. Claure is also the CEO of Softbank Group International.
Most people know Claure as the man Softbank installed as CEO of Sprint, who turned that wireless company around after Softbank’s major investment.
But his career and his life story are far more spectacular than that.
Claure was born in La Paz, Bolivia. He came to the US in 1989 to attend college in Massachusetts. A fated airline trip turned into his big break.
Claure was always entrepreneurial, even as a kid, and made extra cash by buying and selling his mother’s clothing outside their house.
After completing his degree in economics and finance at Bentley College, Claure found himself on a plane sitting next to the newly-appointed Bolivian Football Federation president.
By the time the flight landed, he landed a job as head of business operations. The team qualified for the World Cup that year, 1994, the first time in 44 years.
Claure told the South Miami Harold in 2013 that he learned from the federation president Guido Loayza, “His persistence against all odds was an eye opener.”
After the World Cup, he moved back to Boston. He needed cash so he answered an ad that promised cash for frequent flier miles, selling them for $US2,000.
A few days later, when he needed to fly back to Bolivia, he called up that company and tried to buy his miles back.
They wanted $US8,000. A 400% markup in a matter of days! That kind of profit attracted him to start his own grey market business of selling airline miles.
The airlines tried to tell him he couldn’t do it.
“But we found a way to do it legally,” Marcelo told Inc. back in 2004.
“It taught me that you don’t have to do what people tell you, no matter how powerful they are. A lot of times, we live by the limits that are given to us, and it stunts our potential,” he said.
He says he got into the wireless phone business when he walked into a shop to buy a phone and a “fed up” business owner offered to give him a phone if he bought into the business instead.
So, he did and within a few years, he had built that stake into the leading wireless retailer in New England, he told the South Florida Journal back in 2013.
In 1995, he figured out another loophole to turn into a business, this time with mobile phones.
As a result of running that wireless business, he figured out that mobile phone maker Motorola priced its cell phones far cheaper in Canada than it did in the US.
So he convinced Bell Canada to buy extra phones and sell them to his company, which he sold to US retailers at a profit, still undercutting Motorola’s US prices.
Motorola was not pleased, although the company would later become Claure’s biggest business partner.
His most successful company, Brightstar, was launched when he and his team found a bigger niche: helping mobile phone makers distribute their phones to Latin American telephone companies.
The phone makers disliked dealing with all the customs regulations and the phone companies liked having a partner that could quickly fill phone orders.
Motorola partnered with Brightstar and saw its Latin American sales zoom.
“The secret was,” Marcelo told Inc. in 2004, “that I changed the rules of distribution.”
By 2013, Brightstar was generating $US7 billion a year in revenue, and $US260 million a year in profits and had caught the eye of Japanese telecom mogul Masayoshi Son.
Masayoshi Son, who’s own wealth arose from the wireless telecom business, bought a majority stake in Brightstar for $US1.26 billion in 2014, leaving Claure with a 47% stake.
Softbank agreed to slowly buy more of Claure’s stake, Reuters reported. Brightstar is still a part of Softbank’s portfolio.
In 2014, Son asked Claure to step in and fix Sprint. So he did.
Softbank bought Sprint, the struggling No. 3 carrier, in 2013 for $US21.6 billion.
Son hand-selected Claure to be CEO and turn the company around. He spent four years as CEO rejuvenating the company’s fortunes by cutting expenses and improving the brand’s reputation.
Sprint went from losing customers to gaining more than 2.1 million, and Claure orchestrated a merger of Sprint with T-Mobile.
So far, that deal has faced endless roadblocks but the companies are still working on it.
In 2018, Claure moved from CEO to executive chairman and became COO of Softbank.
During his time at sprint, Claure revamped the company’s marketing. He will forever be known for greenlighting the Helicopter Trampoline campaign with YouTube star Jake Paul.
The stunt, where Paul jumped on a trampoline hanging from a helicopter, was the brainchild of internet marketing pro Jason Neubauer.
In addition to his roles at Sprint and Softbank, Claure oversees the SoftBank Innovation Fund, launched in March, which plans to invest $US5 billion in Latin America startups
Here he is telling CNBC about the new fund:
He is known as Bolivia’s richest person and may be a billionaire himself.
Back in 2014, when he sold a stake to Softbank, his net worth was estimated to be more than $US900 million. And his fortunes under SoftBank have only improved.
The 6-foot, 6-inch tall Claure is the father of six children and owns in a waterfront mansion in Miami Beach.
His Miami waterfront mansion was formerly owned by Miami Heat legend Rony Seikaly, and in 2017 was put on the rental market for $US60,000 a month, The RealDeal reported.
It’s a 9,400 Mediterranean-style home with nine bedrooms, nine baths and two half-baths.
But his personal life is just as busy as his professional life. Claure hangs with David Beckham as a co-owner and leader of two soccer teams.
Claure is part owner and chairman of Inter Miami CF, which is David Beckham’s new major league soccer team scheduled to start playing in March, 2020.
He’s also the chairman of Club Bolivar, Bolivia’s top soccer team.
That means Claure is buddies with co-owner Beckham. The other owners of the team include MasTec’s Jorge Mas and Jose Mas and Claure’s boss and friend SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son.
Claure made a name for himself as a tech philanthropist early in his career. He was, for instance, a founding member of the 2005-era One Laptop Per Child project.
OLPC created a low-cost green laptop and gave them away to the world’s poorest children in developing nations. It gave away around 3 million laptops in the ten years that it was going strong, the Verge reports.
In 2016, while at Sprint, Claure created the 1Million Project Foundation to connect disadvantaged communities to the internet.
He’s also a surfer, recently tweeting about adding a surfing trip to Costa Rica to his bucket list.
— MarceloClaure (@marceloclaure) October 19, 2019
He is also a marathon runner, training with a group of people from Sprint. Recently he vowed to run the NYC Marathon with a group of friends to raise money for five charities.
The charities involve projects to the clean oceans, children’s hospitals and Reporters Without Borders. The group put together a website to encourage donations.
Although Claure is ambitious and seemingly tireless, people who know him says he doesn’t have to pretend to the be the smartest person in the room.
“He doesn’t have to show you he’s the smartest guy in the room by talking,” one of his Brightstar business partners said of him to Inc. back in 2004. “He shows you by the kind of people he hires and his belief in them.”
A lawyer named Clay Parker who worked with both Brightstar and Claure for more than 20 years told the Miami Herald in 2018:
“Marcelo wants to be king of the world,” and that his view is “if he works hard, he can accomplish it.”
He told the South Florida Business Journal much the same thing: that he attributes his success to “hard work and determination.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.