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)
Tosu, Saga, Japan
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 (Japanese: 孫 正義, Hepburn: Son Masayoshi, Korean: 손정의 Son Jeong-ui; born August 11, 1957) is a Japanese business magnate and investor of Korean descent[3] 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.[4] 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).[5] 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.[6]

Son was ranked at number 39 on the Forbes list of The World's Billionaires 2018, with a net worth of $22.7 billion.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Ethnically Korean, Son's grandparents immigrated to Japan from Korea in search for economic opportunities. Son was born in a small town on Japan's southern island Kyushu.[8][9]

Son's family adopted the Japanese surname Yasumoto (安本), and Son used this surname as a child.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[9]

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 decided to use his Korean-style surname Son when he came back to Japan, to become a role model for ethnic Korean children there.[13]

Yahoo! and Alibaba[edit]

Son was an early investor in internet firms, buying a share of Yahoo! in 1995 and investing $20 Million in the Alibaba stake 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[18][edit]

Through his holdings in SoftBank, Son bought a 76% share in Sprint. SoftBank has further accumulated shares in Sprint (S) to about 80% ownership.

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”,[19] and engaged in investing in a nationwide solar power network for Japan.[20] 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.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Son met his wife, Masami Ohno, while in university. They have two daughters.[22]


In 2011 Son pledged to donate 10 billion yen ($120 million) and his remaining salary until retirement to help support victims of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.[23]


  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. ^ Kodera, Atsushi (February 16, 2014). "Son's rags-to-riches career impresses by the numbers". Japan Times. Retrieved May 16, 2018. His early dwelling was miserable, and his Korean descent made him a target for discrimination, overshadowing his early years. But Son’s determination probably surfaced in his early teens, his biographers say.
  4. ^ "Masayoshi Son's $58 Billion Payday on Alibaba". 2014-05-08. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  5. ^ Sorkin, Andrew Ross (2010-12-13). "A Key Figure in the Future of Yahoo". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  6. ^ Caroline Howard. "No. 45: Masayoshi Son - In Photos: The World's Most Powerful People: 2013". Forbes.
  7. ^ "The World's Billionaires". Forbes. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  8. ^ Pham, Sherisse. "SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son: A 'crazy' billionaire obsessed with the future".
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ The David Rubenstein Show: Masayoshi Son. October 11th, 2017, 7:26 AM EDT. URL:
  11. ^ Inoue, Atsuo (2013). "2: Grade Skipping". Aiming High: A Biography of Masayoshi Son. YouTeacher. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  12. ^ "Masayoshi Son". Business week. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  13. ^ "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. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Yasu, Mariko (2011-06-23). "Softbank's CEO Wants a Solar-Powered Japan". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Retrieved 2011-08-23.
  21. ^ Pham, Sherisse (2018-03-28). "SoftBank wants to build the world's biggest solar project in Saudi Arabia". CNNTech. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  22. ^ hermes (12 December 2016). "SoftBank's Masayoshi Son, the 'crazy guy who bet on the future'".
  23. ^ "Softbank's Son pledges 120 million salary for quake relief", Bloomberg, 2011-04-04.

External links[edit]