You would think an offer of $8 billion might be a compelling enough reason to sign on a new investor. But not for Uber.
Rajeev Misra, the chief executive of SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund, says he personally spent six months persuading Uber’s board to take his money.
SoftBank bought a 15% stake in Uber last year, making it the ride-hailing firm’s biggest individual shareholder and triggering major governance changes.
Speaking at the CogX conference in London on Monday, Misra said a consortium led by SoftBank paid “$7.9 or $8 billion” to buy shares from existing Uber shareholders. SoftBank also invested a further $1.5 billion directly into the company. The deal closed in January.
But, Misra said, Uber could easily have turned to its existing investors, such as General Atlantic. At the time, Uber’s board members were tied up in a power struggle with Travis Kalanick, then the company’s CEO.
“It’s not that they had a shortage of capital,” Misra told the CogX conference.
He added: “I worked for six months personally convincing the board, personally convincing the shareholders, who were at bigger odds with each other, the CEO got involved, and there was so much turmoil. Why did they pick us versus another consortium?”
“It wasn’t because we put in $7.9 or $8 billion and there weren’t another consortium which could put up $8 billion,” he said. “There were many.”
SoftBank, he said, had one big selling point. “It’s because of the ecosystem we bought,” he said. “We owned every other ride-sharing company in the world.”
SoftBank, through the Vision Fund, has stakes in Uber’s main competition globally, such as Ola in India, Didi Chuxing in China, Grab in Singapore, and 99 in Brazil.
“We could bring the synergies,” Misra said.
He pointed to Japan as an example, where Uber will soon launch a ride-hailing pilot for the first time. Curiously, SoftBank is launching a separate taxi venture in Japan with Didi Chuxing, which may compete directly with Uber.
“Uber couldn’t have gone into Japan without SoftBank’s help with taxi unions,” Misra said. “It’s a win-win.”
He also pointed to Uber’s merger with its Southeast Asian competitor Grab, which took place just three months after SoftBank’s investment closed.