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SoftBank Ex-COO to Lead Chinese Phenom Shein’s Latam Drive

(Bloomberg) -- Online retailer Shein has named former SoftBank Group Corp. executive Marcelo Claure to help run its Latin American business, a signature hire that could accelerate a global expansion by one of the world’s most valuable startups.

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Claure, once a lieutenant to SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, will lead the region’s operations, according to a statement Tuesday. The former SoftBank chief operating officer will also make a $100 million personal investment in the company.

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The appointment is unusual given Claure’s track record as a telecom executive, SoftBank COO and tech financier. The Bolivian billionaire left SoftBank in 2022 and moved closer to his roots, leasing office space for an investment outfit in Miami. The hire may reflect Shein’s aggressive push into new territories, building on its success selling cut-price apparel to Western consumers.

“This is a unique opportunity for me to contribute to the region together with Shein,” Claure said in the statement. “In Latin America, countries like Mexico and Brazil are at a stage of development where nearshoring, with the help of Shein’s supply chain technology, can enable local supply chains to flourish.”

The Wall Street Journal first reported Claure’s appointment and investment.

Read more: Secretive Shein Owners Build $40 Billion Fortune in Fast Fashion

Shein has grown rapidly since its inception, capturing consumers from the US to Europe with a distinct combination of viral marketing videos and speedy fashion updates. An April 2022 funding round pegged its valuation at $100 billion — more than Hennes & Mauritz AB and the firm behind Zara combined. Its backers include Sequoia China and Tiger Global.

While concerns about slowing growth have dimmed its prospects, secondary trades in July indicated the company was still worth about $70 billion. Virtually none of Shein’s sales are in China. In the US, it’s amassed an estimated 40% share of the fast-fashion industry. Sales hit roughly $16 billion in 2021, up from $10 billion in 2020.

Claure built a $2 billion fortune as a deputy to Son before leaving the firm last year after a contentious split from his onetime mentor. He was known for leading the effort to clean up one of SoftBank’s most spectacular missteps — its investment in WeWork — as well as spearheading Sprint Corp. He also led SoftBank’s investment efforts in Latin America, one of its more successful funds. While awaiting the end of his noncompete clause, he’s establishing his own investment firm.

Read more: Marcelo Claure Has Big Plan for His Billions After SoftBank Exit

--With assistance from Daniela Wei, Zheping Huang and Olivia Poh.

(Updates with statement in second and fourth paragraphs.)

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