Masayoshi Son in 2008
|Education||University of California, Berkeley|
|Occupation||Entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist|
|Known for||Principal founder of Softbank|
|Home town||Tokyo, Japan|
|Net worth||US$19.5 billion (March 2020)|
|Title||Chairman, president and CEO of Softbank|
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. 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, despite having the distinction of losing the most money in history (approximately $70bn during the dot com crash of 2000).
Son was ranked at number 43 on the Forbes list of The World's Billionaires 2019, with a net worth of $22.9 billion, and was named the world's 45th most powerful person by Forbes Magazine's List of The World's Most Powerful People in 2013.
Early life and education
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.
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. 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.
Son graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Economics in 1980, 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. He decided to use his Korean surname instead on returning to Japan from the U.S., and became a role model for ethnic Korean children in Japan.
Yahoo! and Alibaba
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. 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.
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).
Investment in solar power
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", and engaged in investing in a nationwide solar power network for Japan. 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.
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.
Son met his wife, Masami Ohno, while in university. They have two daughters. 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. 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.
Vision Fund Investments
SoftBank's investment vehicle, the $100 billion Vision Fund, invests in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things. It aims to double its portfolio of AI companies from 70 to 125. 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. Son plans to raise $100 billion for a new fund every few years, investing about $50 billion a year in startups. A second Vision Fund is currently in the works with a target of $108 billion, of which $38 billion would come from Softbank itself.
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