Masayoshi Son

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Masayoshi Son
Masayoshi Son (孫正義) on July 11, 2008.jpg
Masayoshi Son in 2008
Born (1957-08-11) 11 August 1957 (age 62)
Tosu, Saga, Japan
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley
OccupationEntrepreneur, investor, philanthropist
Known forPrincipal founder of Softbank
Home townTokyo, Japan
Net worthUS$19.5 billion (March 2020)[1]
TitleChairman, president and CEO of Softbank
Spouse(s)Masami Ohno

Masayoshi Son (Japanese: 孫正義, Son Masayoshi, Korean: 손정의; RR: Son Jeong-ui, born 11 August 1957) is a Korean-Japanese billionaire technology entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. He is the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Japanese holding company SoftBank, CEO of SoftBank Mobile and chairman of UK-based Arm Holdings.[2] He is well known for his $20 million early stake into Alibaba in 1999.

According to Forbes magazine, Son's estimated net worth is US$23 billion, and he is the second richest man in Japan,[1] despite having the distinction of losing the most money in history (approximately $70bn during the dot com crash of 2000).[3]

Son was ranked at number 43 on the Forbes list of The World's Billionaires 2019, with a net worth of $22.9 billion,[4] and was named the world's 45th most powerful person by Forbes Magazine's List of The World's Most Powerful People in 2013.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Masayoshi Son was born in Tosu, (鳥栖市, Tosu-shi) a city in the eastern part of Saga Prefecture on the island of Kyushu, Japan.[6][7][8]

Son is a 3rd generation "Zainichi Korean", which are Japanese people of Korean descent.[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 created 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.[7] 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.[7] 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 23 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.

Arm Holdings[edit]

In July 2016, SoftBank announced plans to acquire Arm Holdings for £23.4 billion ($31.4 billion) which would be the largest ever purchase of a European technology company. In September 2016, SoftBank announced that the transaction was 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 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]

In July 2018, coverage indicated that Son "would underwrite most of 100 GW" of a planned 275 GW of new renewable provision in India by 2027.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Son met his wife, Masami Ohno, while in university. They have two daughters.[24] He lives in Tokyo in a three-story mansion that is valued at $50 million and that has a golf range with 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 the Softbank Hawks, a professional Japanese baseball team.[25] 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.[26]


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.[27]

Vision Fund Investments[edit]

SoftBank's investment vehicle, the $100 billion Vision Fund, invests in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things.[28] It aims to double its portfolio of AI companies from 70 to 125.[29] 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.[30] Son plans to raise $100 billion for a new fund every few years, investing about $50 billion a year in startups.[31] A second Vision Fund is currently in the works with a target of $108 billion, of which $38 billion would come from Softbank itself.[32]


  1. ^ a b "Forbes profile: Masayoshi Son". Forbes. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  2. ^ "Masayoshi Son's $58 Billion Payday on Alibaba". 8 May 2014. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  3. ^ Sorkin, Andrew Ross (13 December 2010). "A Key Figure in the Future of Yahoo". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  4. ^ "The World's Billionaires 2019". Forbes. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  5. ^ Caroline Howard. "No. 45: Masayoshi Son - In Photos: The World's Most Powerful People: 2013". Forbes.
  6. ^ Pham, Sherisse (7 December 2016). "SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son: A 'crazy' billionaire obsessed with the future".
  7. ^ a b c Andrew Pollack (19 February 1995). "A Japanese Gambler Hits the Jackpot With Softbank". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  8. ^ Martin, Alex (7 February 2019). "Masayoshi Son: Betting big and winning". Japan Times Online.
  9. ^ "不遇の環境を乗り越え、世界的実業家へ 孫正義の成功までの道のり". Forbes Japan (in Japanese). 15 March 2020. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  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". Bloomberg. 11 October 2017.
  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 11 December 2017.
  15. ^ Sender, Henny; Ling, Connie (18 January 2000). "Softbank to Invest $20 Million In Hong Kong's". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  16. ^ Pfanner, Eric (19 September 2014). "SoftBank's Alibaba Alchemy: How to Turn $20 Million Into $50 Billion". WSJ. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  17. ^ "SoftBank completes $31 billion acquisition of ARM". The Verge. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  18. ^ "U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission - Homepage".
  19. ^ "SoftBank is in Big Trouble if Sprint T-Mobile Merger Doesn't Happen". 6 May 2019.
  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 (23 June 2011). "Softbank's CEO Wants a Solar-Powered Japan". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  22. ^ Pham, Sherisse (28 March 2018). "SoftBank wants to build the world's biggest solar project in Saudi Arabia". CNNTech. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  23. ^ Buckley, Tim (3 July 2018). "IEEFA op-ed: India is helping bring the era of coal to an end". Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  24. ^ hermes (12 December 2016). "SoftBank's Masayoshi Son, the 'crazy guy who bet on the future".
  25. ^ Ghurye, Shruti (23 February 2019). "10 Things You Didn't Know About Masayoshi Son".
  26. ^ Ghurye, Shruti (23 February 2019). "Serial Entrepreneur Taizo Son Finds A Welcoming Laboratory For His High-Tech Ideas".
  27. ^ Alpeyev, Pavel (4 April 2011), "Softbank's Son pledges 120 million salary for quake relief", Bloomberg
  28. ^ "SoftBank's $100 Billion Vision Fund Is Run by These 10 Men". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  29. ^ Brooker, Katrina (14 January 2019). "The most powerful person in Silicon Valley". Fast Company. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  30. ^ Sherman, Alex (1 August 2018). "Masayoshi Son building Vision Fund into family, say founders". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  31. ^ Ghurye, Shruti (7 February 2019). "Masayoshi Son: Betting big and winning". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  32. ^ Klebnikov, Sergei. "SoftBank Launches Second Vision Fund With $2.5 Billion Investment: Report". Forbes.

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