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Oracle chairman says SoftBank's Masayoshi Son likely to join TikTok board: Fox Business

Jodi Xu Klein
·3 min read

TikTok is likely to add Japanese billionaire investor Masayoshi Son of SoftBank Group to its board if Oracle's bid for the social media app is successful, Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo said on Wednesday, citing an Oracle executive.

The other four out of five board members "will be American", Bartiromo said during an edition of Mornings with Maria, citing a conversation she had with Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison this week.

The potential involvement of the legendary Japanese investor was the latest twist in the deal negotiation process as the Chinese-owned hit video-sharing app attempts to strike an agreement on how to operate in the US.

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As of Tuesday, Oracle's bid for TikTok's US operations reportedly still included ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming on the board. Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon will become a director. The rest of the board will consist of ByteDance's existing backers, including General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital.

SoftBank has been exploring a bid for TikTok's India assets in the past month. Since the discussions for the India operations have petered out, the Japanese investor has become more active in the group negotiating for the US assets, according to news reports.

The Japanese conglomerate owns a small stake in TikTok's Chinese parent, ByteDance. SoftBank led a group of funds that invested US$3 billion in ByteDance in 2018.

Representatives at SoftBank, ByteDance, TikTok and Oracle did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

SoftBank has a long history of investing in American tech companies, including Amazon, Tesla, Netflix and Alphabet in a combined US$3.9 billion in investment, according to its website.

Son, one of Japan's richest men, and his US$100 billion SoftBank Vision Fund are in need for a win following a debacle in its acquisition of co-working start-up WeWork, which failed to complete its planned public offering due to worsening business and CEO scandal.

SoftBank reported a loss of US$6.5 billion in November from flops including WeWork as well as the disappointing stock debut of Uber.

It is unclear whether SoftBank is in talks to acquire any new stake in TikTok's US operations or plans to roll over its existing investment in parent company ByteDance.

Oracle is in talks to buy 12.5 per cent and Walmart is acquiring 7.5 per cent. China's ByteDance will retain control with an 80 per cent stake in the app's US operations, which will become TikTok Global, with planned headquarters in Texas.

TikTok narrowly escaped an order to shut down new US downloads of the app this past weekend as President Donald Trump said he had given the Oracle deal "his blessing", but said two days later that he would rescind his support for the deal if ByteDance insisted on retaining control.

Meanwhile, China in August passed updated export control rules that would require Beijing to sign off on the deal if the US consortium buys TikTok's core technology as it is now subject to the government review before it can be sold to a foreign owner.

The companies have until November 12 to hash out a structure that would keep both Washington and Beijing happy.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.