Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma is China's richest man. Image: Cointelegraph

Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma is stepping down from the board of Japanese tech giant and major blockchain backer SoftBank. After 13 years of close involvement with SoftBank, China’s richest man leaves the board after SoftBank posts its worst operating losses in its history, Cointelegraph reported.

According to a May 17 report by Japanese publication Nikkei, Ma’s departure announcement comes amid Softbank’s Vision Fund reporting record-breaking losses of 1.8 trillion yen ($16.7 billion). Softbank’s total annual losses accounted for 1.36 trillion yen ($12.7 billion) for the year ending March 31, the company reported.

Announcing the news at an annual earnings conference on Monday, Softbank also proposed three new directors. The proposed executives include SoftBank CFO Yoshimoto Goto, Cadence Design Systems CEO Lip-Bu Tan, and Yuko Kawamoto, a professor at Waseda Business School. The new board candidates will be officially proposed at SoftBank’s annual shareholders meeting on June 25. Ma’s departure is also reportedly effective starting June 25.

As reported by Nikkei, SoftBank said the decision to leave the board was at Ma’s request. Having founded China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba back in 1999, Ma is purportedly China’s richest man, with a net worth of over $41 billion. The news comes after Ma stepped down as Alibaba’s chairman in September 2019, where he is still a board member. Apparently, the billionaire’s decision to quit SoftBank is part of shifting his focus to philanthropic activity.

SoftBank is the biggest investor in Alibaba, reportedly holding around 25% of Alibaba shares. SoftBank’s massive annual losses were mainly driven by ill-fated investments in companies like WeWork and Uber, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Investing in WeWork cost SoftBank $24 billion.

SoftBank is major blockchain player

A Japanese multinational conglomerate holding company, SoftBank and its executives are also known for their blockchain-related collaborations and initiatives, as well as investment in Bitcoin (BTC). In late 2019, SoftBank introduced a debit card featuring a built-in cryptocurrency wallet. Previously, SoftBank joined a collaboration to adopt a cross-carrier blockchain telecom payments platform alongside tech giant IBM and TBCASoft.