- The fund has has come under fire for some of its more frivolous investments, like the struggling dog-walking startup Wag.
- But at a SoftBank portfolio meeting in October, the managing partner responsible for managing Wag defended his performance by saying he was trying to back female CEOs, Bloomberg reported.
- At the meeting, Housenbold reportedly seemed to blame the #MeToo movement for limiting his ability to maneuver. A SoftBank spokesperson denied Housenbold made the comment.
- UPDATE, December 20, 2019: This article was updated to more closely track the language of the Bloomberg article, including in the bullets and the sentence below that now reads: “He then seemed to suggest that the #MeToo movement had limited his ability to maneuver, according to the Bloomberg report.”
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Jeff Housenbold, managing partner at SoftBank Vision Fund, decided to go into finance back in 1987, after watching Oliver Stone’s depiction of corporate greed in the 1987 filmWallStreetwith some classmates.
“When some classmates and I saw the “Wall Street” movie in 1987, it changed my perception of the world because I had never known anyone who made more than my father’s $19,000 salary. I decided that finance was where I wanted to work,” he told the New York Times back in 2012.
Current and former fund and SoftBank employees described an environment with an abnormally high tolerance for risk, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. And when reviewing the performance of certain investments, Bloomberg reports that Housenbold has sought to deflect the blame.
High-profile startups like the dog-walking app Wag and the online retailer Brandless have recently struggled, causing SoftBank to either sell back its stake in the company or withdraw funding the company.
Wag has struggled to hold onto customers in recent months. Wag’s old CEO Hilary Schneider recently left the company, to lead Housenbold’s old company Shutterfly. Meanwhile, Wag has undergone a painful round of layoffs to trim down the company. Earlier this month, SoftBank also sold back its stake in the company.
The online retailer Brandless has also struggled to turn a profit, prompting SoftBank to withhold funding from the company. Brandless CEO Tina Sharkey stepped down in March.
At a portfolio meeting in October, Housenbold reportedly argued that his misplaced bets stemmed from his attempt to back female CEOs. He then seemed to suggest that the #MeToo movement had limited his ability to maneuver, according to the Bloomberg report. A SoftBank spokesperson told Business Insider that Housenbold did not make such a comment.
“The employees involved categorically denied these alleged events ever took place,” a statement from a SoftBank spokesperson said. “We have zero tolerance for any form of harassment or discrimination – it simply has no place in our organization.”