Ex-Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen to Head Softbank’s Investment Activities in Israel

Cohen, who ended his role as head of Israel's espionage agency this year, will establish a local arm of the Japanese giant holding company to identify Israeli firms for investment

Sagi Cohen
Sagi Cohen
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Yossi Cohen speaks at the IDC Herzliya conference in 2019.
Yossi Cohen speaks at the IDC Herzliya conference in 2019.Credit: Moti Milrod
Sagi Cohen
Sagi Cohen

Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen head the investment operations in Israel for the SoftBank Group, a Japanese conglomerate holding company, after he finished his role as head of the espionage agency in May.

Cohen will lead the local operations of the SoftBank Vision Fund 2, which manages $30 billion, and will report to the fund’s management in London.

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SoftBank, headed by CEO Masayoshi Son, has a number of investment funds, including Vision Fund 1, with over $100 billion under management, and is considered to be the largest fund of its kind in the world. It has invested in such well-known companies as WeWork, Uber, Slack and TikTok.

The company has made a number of investments in Israel through its various arms, including in Trax Retail, Redis Labs, AnyVision and Cybereason. Cohen’s goal will be to establish the local Israeli investment arm that will locate Israeli companies for SoftBank to invest in.

The Vision Fund focuses on late-stage investments. A branch of the SoftBank Ventures Asia Fund, headed by Benjamin Weiss, already operates in Israel, concentrating on early-stage investments. The SoftBank Asia Fund has been operating in Israel since 2015 and has invested $50 million in Israeli firms, including Pliops and Innoviz Technologies. Now, with the opening of the new branch headed by Cohen, SoftBank’s presence in Israel will cover all stages of investment in local firms.

Record-breaking profits in Japan

In May, SoftBank reported a $17.7 billion profit for the first quarter of 2021, which is the fourth quarter of the financial year in Japan. This is a profit record for any Japanese company – and a surprise, after a period in which SoftBank’s reputation took a severe blow – after the failure of WeWork's IPO.

Cohen retired as head of the Mossad at the end of May, and foreign reports said he was considering joining a number of investment funds. One report said he met with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin a few weeks ago, and that they discussed possible cooperation in the investment fund Mnuchin is establishing in cooperation with the Gulf States.

It is expected that Cohen’s connections in the Gulf States will aid him in his new job. The Vision Fund has previously received funds from the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which were invested in innovative and risky firms that Son believed could become large monopolies.

The report on Cohen’s appointment appeared first in Globes on Friday, and Cohen confirmed the information to Haaretz.

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