Former Israeli spy chief to lead investment shark SoftBank's new Israel office

Former Israeli spy chief to lead investment shark SoftBank's new Israel office
Despite not having a background in investment, ex-head of Mossad Yossi Cohen will head investment giant Softbank's new office in Israel.
2 min read
10 July, 2021
Yossi Cohen is the former Mossad chief [Getty]

The former Israeli spy chief has been appointed to lead SoftBank's new office in Israel, a company known for being the world’s largest venture capital firm with close ties with Saudi Arabia.

SoftBank, a prominent technology fund that has invested in Uber, Alibaba and TikTok has appointed ex-Mossad chief Yossi Cohen to set up its new office in Israel, Israeli business newspaper Globes reported.

Cohen will manage SoftBank's activities in Israel, hunt companies for investment and help them tap into global markets, with particular emphasise on Asia. 

He will also work with SoftBank's Europe and Middle East team, managed from London by SoftBank Vision Fund managing partner Yanni Pipilis, the report said. 

Cohen is also set to become a member of SoftBank's second fund, which amounts to $30 billion, but will not make investments from the firm's first fund, of which Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund is an investor.

Despite not having a background in investment, the giant recruited him because of his perceived popularity and influence in Israel.

"SoftBank has pioneered a new approach to technology investing and created the world’s largest ecosystem of emerging technology champions," said Cohen. 

"Israel’s advanced technology and entrepreneurial culture make it a natural fit for SoftBank’s investment vision and I look forward to helping fast-moving companies scale in the region and globally," he added.

According to Globes, SoftBank will write a check of a minimum of $50 million for growth companies with valuations of at least $250 million that have proven artificial intelligence technology at a high level.

"When we met Mr Cohen, we immediately got excited about the opportunity to work together. He is very well connected in the Israeli industry at large, he is someone that entrepreneurs and founders can recognise and can be a central focal point for us," SoftBank's Vision Fund managing partner Yanni Pipilis told Globes.

Cohen was appointed as the director of Mossad in 2015 after serving as former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's national security advisor and previously as Mossad deputy-chief.

He played a prominent role in recent deals to normalise ties with Arab countries, travelling to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as the US brokered deals between them and Israel.

He also reportedly joined Netanyahu on a 2020 visit to Saudi Arabia for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Saudi Arabia denies the meeting occurred.

Cohen was linked to Israel's killing last year of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, although Israel has not commented on the incident.

He was replaced as Mossad chief by David Barnea in May.