Masayoshi Son is a Japanese entrepreneur who founded SoftBank, a multinational telecommunications and internet corporation, and is also the current chairman of Sprint Corporation. One of the richest men in Japan, he enjoys a celebrity status in the country and boasts of a massive Twitter following. Born into a second-generation Zainichi Korean family in Japan, Son was hard working and ambitious from a young age. His enterprising spirit received a boost when he moved to the United States for his higher studies. He studied economics and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. It was during this time that the young man became interested in entrepreneurship and upon his return to Japan founded a software distribution company called Nihon SoftBank. Within years the company rose to the top of the Japan’s nascent computer industry prompting him to expand his business. In 2000, he received a major bolt when he lost approximately $70 billion during the dot com crash. Ever determined and resilient, he bounced back within a few years to re-establish his business by making some strategic acquisitions. Much respected for his uncanny business sense and resilience, Masayoshi Son also has the reputation of being a generous philanthropist.
Childhood & Early Life
Masayoshi Son was born on August 11, 1957, in Tosu, Saga, Japan, into a second-generation Zainichi Korean family.
Intelligent and curious from a young age, he was fascinated with America and went to the US for a short-term study abroad program when he was 16. He then decided to quit school in Japan and moved to the US for a longer period.
He completed his high school and enrolled at Holy Names University. After two years he transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied economics and computer science.
During this time he realized that computer technology would soon revolutionize the business world and he could make a fortune out of microchips. In keeping up with this spirit, he decided to come up with at least one entrepreneurial idea a day. By the end of the year he had more than 250 ideas some of which would translate into huge profits in future. He graduated with a BA in economics in 1980.
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Soon after graduation he started Unison in Oakland, California. The company was later sold to the Japanese multinational, Kyocera. Son then returned to Japan and started a software distribution company called Nihon SoftBank in 1981—the name was later shortened to SoftBank.
Despite having no software to sell, the young entrepreneur was able to strike an exclusive deal with both Osaka electronics retailer Joshin and top Japanese software developer Hudson.
The deals proved to be very profitable and within years SoftBank rose to the top of the emerging computer industry in Japan by grabbing around 50 percent of the nation’s retail market for computer software by 1984.
The success of the company motivated Son to venture into other arenas and he became involved in a telephone-routing device, magazine publishing, the Comdex trade show, and broadband internet service. However, not all of his ventures were successful. He lost almost a billion dollars on Kingston Technologies in the late 1990s.
He faced a major loss in 2000. During the dot com crash, he lost approximately $70 billion—and gained the inglorious distinction of losing the most money in history. However, even a loss this big could not break his spirit and he determinedly worked towards rebuilding 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 acquired Japan Telecom, the then-third largest broadband and landline provider and is now Japan's leading broadband provider.
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 took over a majority of Sprint Nextel, an American telecommunications holding company, for $22 billion—the biggest foreign acquisition by a Japanese firm to date. Currently Sprint is the fourth largest wireless network operator in the United States.
Son established SoftBank Group Corp., a multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation with operations in broadband, fixed-line telecommunications, e-commerce, Internet, technology services, and finance among other ventures. As on 2015 it was ranked in the Forbes Global 2000 list as the 62nd largest public company in the world.
Masayoshi Son is a well-known philanthropist. Following the 2011 tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, he donated around 10 billion yen ($120 million) to relief organizations and also pledged all his future salary to help support the victims.
Personal Life & Legacy
He is married with two children.
Masayoshi Son has an estimated net worth of US $14.4 billion.