SoftBank Picks Google’s Arora to Head Internet Business Unit

SoftBank Corp., the Japanese wireless carrier led by billionaire Masayoshi Son, hired Google Inc.’s Nikesh Arora to help steer its global expansion.

Arora will join as vice chairman in October after nearly a decade at Google, including time as the search company’s chief business officer and head of European operations, Tokyo-based SoftBank said in a statement today. He will also be chief executive officer of newly formed SoftBank Internet & Media Inc.

SoftBank, which last year gained control of Sprint Corp., is said to be considering a bid for T-Mobile US Inc. in a move that would create a larger third-ranked U.S. wireless operator. Before joining Google, Arora worked for T-Mobile and also created his own mobile data startup in 2000, the company said.

“Masayoshi Son cannot oversee everything and SoftBank is getting larger,” Hideki Yasuda, a Tokyo-based analyst at Ace Research Institute, said by phone. Son should leave the U.S. Internet market to someone who understands it well, he said.

SoftBank fell 0.3 percent to close at 7,654 yen in Tokyo trading, extending a 17 percent decline this year. The benchmark Topix index lost 0.8 percent today.

As vice chairman Arora will help define, implement and manage the company’s global growth strategy, Son said in the statement. As CEO of the Internet unit he will be directly responsible for overseeing Web, telecommunications, media and global investment activities.

Rare Skills

“I have had the good fortune of getting to know Nikesh over the last five years,” Son said in the statement. “He brings a rare set of skills: amazing financial and strategic acumen; a decade of executive experience at one of the fastest growing companies in history; a deep understanding of the telecommunications industry.”

Arora joined Google before the company’s initial public offering and was instrumental in building the company’s search-ad service into the largest online ad business in the world.

“He’s done a great job -- change happens, it could be healthy even,” Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners, said of Arora’s departure.

Arora said the 10 years he had at Google were “phenomenal” after thanking co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and other Google employees during a call with analysts yesterday. He said he’s moving on to a “new adventure.”

Omid Kordestani, who helped craft Google’s business model and was a senior adviser to the company, will take over Arora’s role, the search engine said yesterday.

SoftBank has an 80 percent stake in Sprint and also owns more than 30 percent of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, making it the largest shareholder in China’s biggest e-commerce operator.