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SoftBank COO Jonathan Bullock quits Snapdeal, Ola boards

SoftBank Group COO and managing director Jonathan Bullock has resigned from the boards of its two biggest investee companies in India, Snapdeal and Ola, a statement from the Japanese telecom and Internet conglomerate confirmed on Monday.

Mint had reported, citing a regulatory filing, that apart from Jasper Infotech Pvt. Ltd-owned Snapdeal and ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd-owned Ola, Bullock has also resigned from the board of Housing.com (Locon Solutions Pvt. Ltd). It also said, citing a person aware of the developments, that SoftBank managing director David Thevenon is likely to replace Bullock and join Ola and Snapdeal boards.

However, in response to an email from Techcircle, a SoftBank spokesperson said: "SoftBank Group International (SBGI) managing director Jonathan Bullock would be stepping down from a number of positions due to his operational commitments, including...Snapdeal and Ola boards in India. This is standard procedure and unrelated to any current operations at Snapdeal, Ola or other boards." The spokesperson added that "JB (Jonathan Bullock) continues to remain on the Housing-Proptiger board."

The SoftBank spokesperson added that SBGI managing directors, Kabir Misra and David Thevenon, will be the primary leads on Snapdeal and Ola, respectively, and that Bullock will work with Misra and Thevenon, as well as the Snapdeal and Ola leadership, to avoid continuity challenges.

Thevenon is a former Google executive who sits on the boards of other startups, including Singapore-based ride-hailing firm Grab and US-based SoFi. Misra is managing partner at SoftBank Capital, overseeing its growth stage investing, and is president and CEO of SB China and India Holdings.

Bullock had joined the boards of Snapdeal, Ola and Housing.com after SoftBank president Nikesh Arora quit them  in April 2015.

Ola and Snapdeal have been continuously in the news for their fund-raising efforts as well as falling valuations. In November last year, SoftBank for the second time marked down the value of its two flagship investments in India. However, the Japanese firm then said that portfolio company valuations are "driven by intricacies of accounting practices and currency fluctuations and should not necessarily be seen as a reflection of their performance."

Ola—which has raised around $1.3 billion in external funding so far—last week saw US-based investment firm Vanguard Group slash its valuation by 41%. This brings down Ola's valuation to an estimated $3 billion compared with its peak valuation of $5 billion between April and November in 2015.

The Bangalore-based cab-hailing firm has reportedly been in talks with new and existing investors to raise a $600-million (about Rs 4,000 crore) round, where SoftBank could be the lead investor. However, several media reports suggest that Ola might be forced to accept a down round at $3 billion, which would make it the first Indian unicorn to raise follow-on investment at a reduced valuation.

Snapdeal, on the other hand, is struggling to raise fresh funds. The e-commerce marketplace has reportedly been in talks with SoftBank to raise fresh funds at a lower valuation. It had raised its last funding round at a valuation of $6.5 billion.

Over the past few months, there have been several reports around Snapdeal's efforts to raise funds for its digital payments arm, FreeCharge, which it acquired in 2015. It also held preliminary talks with its two bigger rivals, Flipkart and Amazon, to explore a merger. However, Snapdeal denied this.

News Corp, the largest investor in PropTiger, which has merged with Housing.com, owns the parent of this website.

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