Masayoshi Son Biography AND rise of SoftBank 2020

Masayoshi Son Biography
Masayoshi Son Biography

 About Masayoshi Son

Masayoshi Son or Son Masayoshi was born on 11th August 1957 at Tosu a city located in the eastern part of Saga Prefecture on the island of Kyushu, Japan. He is one of the most well known Korean-Japanese technology entrepreneurs, investors, and philanthropists. He is also the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Japanese holding company SoftBank, CEO of SoftBank Mobile and also the chairman of UK-based Arm Holdings. He is very popular for his $20 million early stakes into Alibaba in 1999. According to Forbes magazine, Son’s estimated net worth is US$23 billion, and one of the second wealthiest men in Japan, despite having the distinction of losing the huge amount of money in history near about $70bn during the dot com crash of 2000. Forbes also explains him as one of the famous philanthropists. He is also the chairman of Sprint Corporation currently. He is one of the richest men in Japan, he enjoys the status of a celebrity in the country and boasts of a massive Twitter following.

Son was well known as the world’s 45th most powerful person by Forbes Magazine’s List of The World’s Most Powerful People in 2013. Son was shortlisted at number 43 on the Forbes list of The World’s Billionaires 2019, with a net worth of $22.9 billion. He is very much respected and honored for his uncanny business sense and resilience. 

Early Life and Education 

When he was of age 16, Son went from Japan to California and completed his schooling in three weeks by taking the required exams at Serramonte High while staying with friends and family in South San Francisco. After spending the two years at Holy Names University located in Oakland, CA, Masayoshi Son was transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where he had chosen the major subject as economics and further studied computer science. Taken by a microchip featured in a magazine, Son at an early age of 19, said confidently that computer technology would ignite the upcoming commercial revolution.

His first business attempt got started while he was a student. With the support of some professors, Son invented an electronic translator and he sold out that translator to famous Sharp Corporation for $1.7 million. He came to make another $1.5 million by importing some used video game machines from Japan, on credit, and installing them in dormitories and restaurants. Son delivered his interests in business by attending a meeting with Japan McDonald’s president Den Fujita. Considering his advice, Son started studying English and computer science.

Son completed his graduation from UC Berkeley with a degree of B.A. in Economics in 1980. He started Unison in Oakland, CA, which has been bought by Kyocera. Son’s family members had acquired the Japanese surname Yasumoto and Son used that surname as a child. He made a decision to use his Korean surname instead of returning to Japan from the U.S. and became a role model for ethnic Korean children in Japan.


  • Soon after the completion of graduation, he started a Unison company in Oakland, California. Later, the company was sold to the Japanese multinational, Kyocera. Son then returned back to Japan and started a new software distribution company called Nihon SoftBank in 1981—the name was later shortened to SoftBank.
  • Despite having no software to sell out, the young entrepreneur was able to make an exclusive deal with both Osaka electronics retailer Joshin and top Japanese software developer Hudson.
  • The deals managed to be very profitable and within few years, SoftBank rose to the top of one of the emerging computer industries in Japan by grabbing around 50 percent of the nation’s retail market for computer software by 1984.
  • The success of the company became a motivational factor for Son to venture into other areas and he became acquired in a telephone-routing device, magazine publishing, the Comdex trade show, and broadband internet service. However, We all know that not all of his ventures were successful. He lost a billion dollars on Kingston Technologies in 1990.
  • He faced a major loss in 2000. During the dot com crash, he lost  $70 billion and started to gain the inglorious distinction of losing the most money in history. However, even a huge loss, this could not break out his spirit and he determinedly worked towards recreating his fortune.
  • In 2000, he invested $20 million in Alibaba, a new Chinese e-commerce company. This proved to be a wise investment as over the years Alibaba registered phenomenal growth and Alibaba’s initial public offering in 2014 valued SoftBank’s stake at more than $50 billion.
  • In 2001, he formed Yahoo! BroadBand with Yahoo! Japan in which he owned a controlling interest. Eventually, Yahoo! BB involved in Japan Telecom, the third-largest broadband and the landline provider and is now Japan’s one of the leading broadband providers.
  • SoftBank attempted to enter the booming mobile market for years before it was able to buy out Vodafone Japan for around $15 billion in 2006. Even though Vodafone Japan was on the verge of collapse at the time of its acquisition, Son managed to establish himself as a formidable force in the Japan Mobile industry. His SoftBank Mobile is today Japan’s most profitable telecom firm.
  • In 2013, he came to take over a majority of Sprint Nextel, an American telecommunications holding company, for $22 billion which is the biggest foreign acquisition by a Japanese business to date. Currently, Sprint is one of the fourth-largest wireless network operators in the United States.

Personal Life 

Masayoshi Son came to met his wife, Masami Ohno, while he was in university and have two daughters. He used to live in Tokyo in a three-story building that is valued at $50 million which has a golf range. That has also the technology to mimic the weather conditions and temperature of the world’s top golf courses. He has also purchased a home near Silicon Valley in Woodside, California which cost him $117 million. He purchased Softbank Hawks, a professional Japanese baseball team. Son has three brothers and he is the second oldest of the siblings. His youngest brother Taizo Son is one of the famous serial entrepreneurs and investors, having founded GungHo Online Entertainment and the venture capital business Mistletoe.

Success Story of Yahoo BroadBand! and Alibaba Company

Son was one of the early investors in internet firms, and he started buying a share of Yahoo! in 1995 and also invested an amount of $20 million stakes into Alibaba in 1999. Son’s one of the famous holding company SoftBank owns 29.5% shares of Alibaba, which is worth around $108.7 billion as of 23 October 2018. Although SoftBank’s stake in Yahoo! had decreased to 7%, Son established Yahoo! BroadBand in September 2001 with Yahoo!.  After severe regulations of SoftBank’s equity, Son was compelled to focus his attention on Yahoo! BB and BB Phone. So far, SoftBank has accumulated about an amount of $1.3 billion in debt. Yet, Yahoo! BB obtained Japan Telecom, the third-largest broadband and one of the landline providers within 600,000 residential and 170,000 commercial subscribers. Yahoo! BB is now Japan’s one of the popular leading broadband providers.

Arm Holdings

In July 2016, SoftBank broadcasted its plan to obtain Arm Holdings for the amount of £23.4 billion ($31.4 billion), which had been declared as the biggest ever purchase of a European technology company. In September 2016, SoftBank broadcasted that the transaction is complete. The total acquisition price was nearly about £24 billion ($34 billion).

Achievements in Business 

  • Masayoshi Son established and runs SoftBank, a mobile telecom and investment business with $81 billion in 2017 revenue.
  • Softbank invested $35 billion across 100 deals in 2017, which included making investments in office rental business WeWork and ride-hailing company Uber.
  • In December 2016 at Trump Tower, Son said a word of honor that SoftBank would lead $50 billion in investments in U.S. companies and will create 50,000 jobs.
  • ***The people who are investing in Son’s Vision Fund include Apple, Qualcomm, Foxconn, the family office of billionaire Larry Ellison and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign fund.
  • SoftBank obtained struggling U.S. mobile phone carrier Sprint Nextel for the amount of $22 billion in 2013.
  • Through SoftBank and his first $100 billion Vision Fund, Son has invested millions in some of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies, including Uber, WeWork, Slack, and DoorDash.
  • He owns $45 million worth of real estate in Tokyo as well as a $117.5 million estate in Silicon Valley.

Nikesh Arora is an Indian Who Served as CEO for Softbank Group and joining the company in October 2014 until step down on 21 June 2016.

Investments in Solar Power

While considering the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, Masayoshi Son found fault with the nuclear industry for creating “the problem that worries Japanese the most today”, and was engaged in investing in a nationwide solar power network for Japan. In March 2018, it was declared that Son was investing in the biggest ever solar project, a 200GW development planned for Saudi Arabia as one of the parts of its Vision 2030.

In July 2018, coverage introduced that Son “would underwrite most of 100 GW” of a planned 275 GW of a new renewable provision in India by 2027.

Investments in Vision Funds

SoftBank’s investment vehicle, the $100 billion Vision Fund which started investing in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things. It’s the main objective to double its portfolio of AI companies from 70 to 125. It has also started investing in companies in order to revolutionize the real estate, transportation, and others like retail. Son used to make personal connections with the CEOs of all the companies which are funded by Vision Fund. Son started executing his plans to increase $100 billion for a new fund every few years, investing about $50 billion a year in the initial phase of startups. A second Vision Fund is currently in the works with a target of $108 billion of which $38 billion can be gained from Softbank itself.

Major Works

Masayoshi Son started an organization known as SoftBank Group Corporation, which is multinational telecommunication and along with Internet corporation with operations in broadband line, fixed-line telecommunications, development of e-commerce, Internet, technology services, and finance among other ventures. In 2015, it was ranked in the Forbes Global 2000 list as the 62nd largest public company in the world.

Philanthropic Works

Masayoshi Son is a famous philanthropist. Following the 2011 tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, he donated an amount of around 10 billion yen ($120 million) in order to relieve organizations and also pledged all his future salary in order to serve the victims.

Most Important Questions to Discuss

  1. How did Masayoshi Son make his money?

Through SoftBank and his first $100 billion Vision Fund, Son has invested millions in some of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies, including Uber, WeWork, Slack, and DoorDash. He posses approximately $45 million worth of real estate in Tokyo. And he owns approximately $117.5 million estates in Silicon Valley.

2. Does SoftBank make money?

SoftBank started including financial results for the Vision Fund during the fiscal year that lasts in March 2018. The total operating profit including a related Delta Fund was approximately 303 billion yen, or less than $3 billion.

3. Who is the richest man in Japan?

Tadashi Yanai is the richest business person. According to BLOOMBERG, he has worth an estimated $31.4 billion. His fortune comes from his position as chairman and one of the biggest shareholders of Fast Retailing, the largest clothing retailer in Asia and the parent company of Uniqlo.

4. Who lost the most money in history?

Softbank is one of Japan’s largest telecom and internet company, which was founded by Masayoshi Son, who once had a net worth loss close to $80 billion. When the internet bubble burst, it sent shares of Softbank down 98% and led to Son losing more than $70 billion — estimated to be the most money that anyone has ever lost.

Who invested in the Softbank vision fund?

The people who are investing in Son’s Vision Fund include Apple, Qualcomm, Foxconn, the family office of billionaire Larry Ellison and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign fund.


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