Softbank's investment in a Hollywood movie studio represents the coming out party for two new players in the U.S. entertainment industry -- the Japanese telecommunications company and Nikesh Arora, the former Google executive running a new media and internet company.
Two months after unexpectedly decamping from Google for SoftBank, Arora struck a $250 million deal for a minority stake in Legendary Entertainment, announced on Thursday. Earlier, he had tried unsuccessfully to strike a partnership with DreamWorks Animation, sources said.
As CEO of San Carlos, California-based SoftBank Internet and Media, Arora is charged with investing in and operating media and digital media companies, including music, e-commerce and gaming, said one person close to Softbank. Softbank, owned by legendary investor Masayoshi Son, owns U.S. mobile carrier Sprint and is the largest investor in China e-commerce company Alibaba.
At Google, Arora oversaw sales, marketing and partnerships, an outsider's job at a company, where engineering skills are prized above all else.
The buttoned-down and polished Arora, who has a masters degree in business from Northeastern University and previously worked at T-Mobile Europe, became one of the most powerful Google executives, and the highest paid in 2012, when he made $51 million in cash and stock.
Several former colleagues described Arora as very effective at getting results, often by eschewing the collaborative, consensus-based culture within Google.
"He didn't really try hard to convince people that he didn't need to convince," recalled one former Google executive, who declined to be identified. "He would be willing to say 'we need to do this, get it done.' He valued execution."
He also had a reputation for being brutally direct, particularly with people he viewed as unprepared, the former colleagues said.
A representative for Arora declined to make him available for an interview or to respond to comments about him. Google also declined to comment.
The Google business chief rubbed shoulders with Hollywood's elite while selling ads and making deals.
Arora is "perfectly placed" to build Softbank's media portfolio, said Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of advertising group WPP, citing Arora's "knowledge gleaned from his years at Google about the media community."