SoftBank launches $100 million fund investing in ‘people of color’

Via Reuters Finance

FILE PHOTO: The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD

TOKYO (Reuters) – SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T) is launching a $100 million fund to invest in “companies led by founders and entrepreneurs of color”, in the latest corporate action as protests roil the United States.

Described as SoftBank’s bid to improve diversity, “we have to put money behind it, set plans, and hold ourselves accountable,” SoftBank’s Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure, who will head the fund, wrote in a letter to employees on Wednesday.

Named the “Opportunity Growth Fund”, its total initial size is less than a typical single investment by the $100 billion Vision Fund, which is headed by Claure’s rival Rajeev Misra, and will focus on African Americans and Latinos in the U.S.. 

In addition to leading restructuring at floundering office space startup WeWork, Claure runs a fund investing in Latin America. He and Misra are seen as potential successors to Chief Executive Masayoshi Son.

Claure wrote that Tokyo-headquartered SoftBank was also establishing a “dedicated diversity and inclusion program”.

SoftBank’s management is overwhelmingly male, with the company planning to nominate its first female board director at a shareholder meeting later this month.

While spanning a wide range of nationalities, only four of 30 investors listed on Vision Fund’s website are female.

Companies including foreign firms like SoftBank have made public statements following the worst U.S. civil unrest in decades as the death of an unarmed black man reignites the issue of police brutality against African Americans.

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Sony Corp (6758.T) this week pushed back an event for its upcoming PlayStation 5 console, saying “we want to stand back and allow more important voices to be heard.”

Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Kirsten Donovan