Masayoshi Son

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Masayoshi Son
Masayoshi Son (孫正義) on July 11, 2008.jpg
Masayoshi Son (孫正義) on July 11, 2008
Born (1957-08-11) August 11, 1957 (age 61)
ResidenceTokyo, Japan
NationalityJapanese (1990 - present)[1]
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley (B.A.)
OccupationFounder & CEO of SoftBank
Net worthUS$23 billion (January 2018)[2]

Masayoshi Son (孫 正義, Son Masayoshi, born August 11, 1957) is a Japanese business magnate and investor who is the founder and current chief executive officer of Japanese holding conglomerate SoftBank, the chief executive officer of SoftBank Mobile, current chairman of U.S.-based Sprint Corporation and chairman of U.K.-based Arm Holdings.[3] According to Forbes magazine, Son's estimated net worth is US $23 billion and he is the richest man in Japan,[2] despite having the distinction of losing the most money in history (approximately $70bn during the dot com crash of 2000).[4] Forbes also describes him as a philanthropist.

Son was named the world's 45th most powerful person by Forbes Magazine's List of The World's Most Powerful People in 2013.[5]

Son was ranked at number 43 on the Forbes list of The World's Billionaires 2019, with a net worth of $22.9 billion.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Ethnically Korean, Son's grandparents emigrated to Japan from South Korea in search for economic opportunities. Son was born in a small town on Japan's southern island Kyushu in the sparsely populated Saga Prefecture.[7][8] [9]

At age 16, Son moved from Japan to California and finished high school in three weeks by taking the required exams at Serramonte High while staying with friends and family in South San Francisco. After spending two years at Holy Names University in Oakland, CA, Son transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in economics and studied computer science. Enamoured by a microchip featured in a magazine, Son at age 19 became confident that computer technology would ignite the next commercial revolution.[10]

His first business endeavours began as a student. With the help of some professors, Son invented an electronic translator that he sold to Sharp Corporation for $1.7 million. He made another $1.5 million by importing used video game machines from Japan, on credit, and installing them in dormitories and restaurants.[8] Son pursued his interests in business by securing a meeting with Japan McDonald's president Den Fujita. Taking his advice, Son began studying English and computer science.[11]

Son graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Economics in 1980,[12] and started Unison in Oakland, CA, which has since been bought by Kyocera. Son's family had adopted the Japanese surname Yasumoto (安本), and Son had used that surname as a child.[8] He decided to use his Korean surname instead on returning to Japan from the U.S.,[13] and became a role model for ethnic Korean children in Japan.[13]

Yahoo! and Alibaba[edit]

Son was an early investor in internet firms, buying a share of Yahoo! in 1995 and investing a $20 million stake into Alibaba in 1999. Son's holding company SoftBank owns 29.5% of Alibaba, which is worth around $108.7 billion as of 23rd October 2018.[14][15][16] Although SoftBank's stake in Yahoo! had dwindled to 7%, Son established Yahoo! BroadBand in September 2001 with Yahoo! Japan in which he still owned a controlling interest. After a severe devaluation of SoftBank's equity, Son was forced to focus his attention on Yahoo! BB and BB Phone. So far, SoftBank has accumulated about $1.3 billion in debt. Yet, Yahoo! BB acquired Japan Telecom, the then third largest broadband and landline provider with 600,000 residential and 170,000 commercial subscribers. Yahoo! BB is now Japan's leading broadband provider.

Vodafone K.K.[edit]

On March 17, 2006, Vodafone Group announced it had agreed to sell Vodafone K.K. to SoftBank for approximately 1.75 trillion Japanese yen (approximately US$15.1 billion). On April 14, 2006, SoftBank and Vodafone K.K. jointly announced, that the brand and company name Vodafone will be changed to a "new, easy-to-understand and familiar company name and brand". Masayoshi Son is the CEO (Representative Director) of Vodafone K.K.

Arm Holdings[edit]

In July 2016 SoftBank announced its plan to acquire Arm Holdings for £23.4 billion ($31.4 billion) which had to be the biggest ever purchase of a European technology company. In September 2016 SoftBank announced that the transaction is complete. The total acquisition price was approximately £24 billion ($34 billion).[17][14]

Sprint Corporation[edit]

Through his holdings in SoftBank, Son bought a 76% share in Sprint. SoftBank has further accumulated shares in Sprint (S) to about 84% ownership.[18][19]

Investment in solar power[edit]

In response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, Masayoshi Son criticized the nuclear industry for creating “the problem that worries Japanese the most today”,[20] and engaged in investing in a nationwide solar power network for Japan.[21] In March 2018, it was announced that Son was investing in the biggest ever solar project, a 200GW development planned for Saudi Arabia as part of its Vision 2030.[22]

Personal life[edit]

Son met his wife, Masami Ohno, while in university. They have two daughters.[23] He lives in Tokyo in a three-story mansion that is valued at $50 million which has a golf range that has the technology to mimic the weather conditions and temperature of the world’s top golf courses. He has also bought a home near Silicon Valley in Woodside, California that cost him $117 million. He owns Softbank Hawks, a professional Japanese baseball team. [24] Son has three brothers and is the second oldest of the siblings. His youngest brother Taizo Son is a serial entrepreneur and investor, having founded GungHo Online Entertainment and the venture capital firm Mistletoe [25]


In 2011 Son pledged to donate 10 billion yen ($120 million) and his remaining salary until retirement to support victims of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.[26]

Vision Fund Investments[edit]

SoftBank's investment vehicle, the $100 billion Vision Fund which invests in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things.[27], aims to double its portfolio of AI companies from 70 to 125.[28] It also invests in companies to revolutionise real estate, transportation, and retail. Son makes personal connections with the CEOs of all companies funded by Vision Fund.[29] Son plans to raise $100 billion for a new fund every few years, investing about $50 billion a year in startups. [30]


  1. ^ Harner, Stephen (April 14, 2014). "After Buying Sprint, SoftBank's Masayoshi Son's Vision: To Be The World's Number One Company". Forbes. Retrieved May 16, 2018. His pioneering spirit (easier for Son, perhaps, as an ethnic Korean, who only acquired Japanese citizenship in 1990), determination, and over-achievement were evident early.
  2. ^ a b "Masayoshi Son". Forbes.
  3. ^ "Masayoshi Son's $58 Billion Payday on Alibaba". 2014-05-08. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  4. ^ Sorkin, Andrew Ross (2010-12-13). "A Key Figure in the Future of Yahoo". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  5. ^ Caroline Howard. "No. 45: Masayoshi Son - In Photos: The World's Most Powerful People: 2013". Forbes.
  6. ^ "The World's Billionaires 2019". Forbes. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  7. ^ Pham, Sherisse. "SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son: A 'crazy' billionaire obsessed with the future".
  8. ^ a b c Andrew Pollack (1995-02-19). "A Japanese Gambler Hits the Jackpot With Softbank". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  9. ^ "Masayoshi Son: Betting big and winning".
  10. ^ Inoue, Atsuo (2013). "2: Grade Skipping". Aiming High: A Biography of Masayoshi Son. YouTeacher. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  11. ^ The David Rubenstein Show: Masayoshi Son. October 11th, 2017, 7:26 AM EDT. URL:
  12. ^ "Masayoshi Son". Business week. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  13. ^ a b "CEO revealed Korean roots to inspire youths facing bigotry in Japan". Nikkei Asian Review. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Masayoshi Son goes on a $100bn shopping spree". The Economist. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  15. ^ Sender, Henny; Ling, Connie (2000-01-18). "Softbank to Invest $20 Million In Hong Kong's". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  16. ^ Pfanner, Eric (2014-09-19). "SoftBank's Alibaba Alchemy: How to Turn $20 Million Into $50 Billion". WSJ. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  17. ^ "SoftBank completes $31 billion acquisition of ARM". The Verge. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  18. ^ "U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission - Homepage".
  19. ^ "SoftBank is in Big Trouble if Sprint T-Mobile Merger Doesn't Happen".
  20. ^ Penn, Michael (23 April 2011). "Masayoshi Son Castigates the Nuclear Industry". Shingetsu Blog. Archived from the original on 22 November 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  21. ^ Yasu, Mariko (2011-06-23). "Softbank's CEO Wants a Solar-Powered Japan". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Retrieved 2011-08-23.
  22. ^ Pham, Sherisse (2018-03-28). "SoftBank wants to build the world's biggest solar project in Saudi Arabia". CNNTech. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  23. ^ hermes (12 December 2016). "SoftBank's Masayoshi Son, the 'crazy guy who bet on the future".
  24. ^ Ghurye, Shruti (23 February 2019). "10 Things You Didn't Know About Masayoshi Son".
  25. ^ Ghurye, Shruti (23 February 2019). "Serial Entrepreneur Taizo Son Finds A Welcoming Laboratory For His High-Tech Ideas".
  26. ^ Alpeyev, Pavel (2011-04-04), "Softbank's Son pledges 120 million salary for quake relief", Bloomberg
  27. ^ "SoftBank's $100 Billion Vision Fund Is Run by These 10 Men". Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  28. ^ Brooker, Katrina (2019-01-14). "The most powerful person in Silicon Valley". Fast Company. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  29. ^ Sherman, Alex (2018-08-01). "Masayoshi Son building Vision Fund into family, say founders". Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  30. ^ Ghurye, Shruti (2019-02-07). "Masayoshi Son: Betting big and winning". Retrieved 2019-02-07.

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