Photo: Masaru Kamikura from Japan / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)
Born: August 11, 1957
Age: 62 years
Born Place: Tosu, Saga, Japan
Occupation: Entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist
Net Worth: US$19.5 billion (March 2020)
Spouse: 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. He is well known for his $20 million early stake into Alibaba in 1999.
According to Forbes, Son’s estimated net worth is US$23 billion, 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 named the world’s 45th most powerful person by Forbes Magazine’s List of The World’s Most Powerful People in 2013.
As of July 2020, Son ranks 32ndon the Forbes list of The World’s Billionaires 2020 , and ranks second in Japan with an estimated net worth of $30.6 billion.
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
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.
Son is a 3rd generation “Zainichi Korean”, which are Japanese people of Korean descent.
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 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 June 2020, Son stepped down from the Alibaba board.
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.