(Adds comments from Ford, Softbank, and Ojakli statement)
By David Shepardson
June 29 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co's long-time top lobbyist is leaving the No. 2 U.S. automaker to join Japan's Softbank Group, which is muscling up its Washington efforts, the companies said on Friday.
Ziad Ojakli, a Ford group vice president who has led the Detroit auto maker's government relations strategy since 2004 and was a White House aide under President George W. Bush, will leave the automaker July 15. He will join SoftBank effective Aug. 1 and establish its U.S. government affairs practice.
"Ziad is one of the world’s most successful and respected government affairs executives with a proven track record managing issues for large global entities where business interests intersect with public policy," said Marcelo Claure, chief operating officer of Softbank Group and chairman of its Sprint Corp unit, in a statement.
Softbank is seeking regulatory approval in Washington for Sprint to tie-up with T Mobile US Inc.
"As SoftBank delivers on its commitment to invest in the U.S. economy, our global portfolio of companies will benefit tremendously from his expertise," Claure said.
Ford faces numerous challenges in Washington, including ongoing trade issues, as well as the Trump administration's plan to revise fuel economy standards through 2025.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump said SoftBank Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son was boosting his investment in the United States to $72 billion, significantly more than the $50 billion he had previously pledged.
"His $50 billion turned out to be $72 billion so far, he's not finished yet," Trump said, without providing details.
Trump's comments came at a groundbreaking ceremony in Wisconsin for a manufacturing facility for Foxconn, the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer, attended by Son and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou.
Ojakli said in a statement: "SoftBank is a critical and growing contributor to the U.S. economy, and it’s an honor to establish its government affairs practice in the U.S. and around world."
Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr praised Ojakli's work, saying "he has been instrumental in driving global policy outcomes and leading philanthropic programs that support Ford’s vision for growth and a better world."
The company's lobbying efforts will be led in the immediate future by Stephen Biegun, who is Ford's vice president of International Governmental Affairs. (Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Additional reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Bernadette Baum)