Bloomberg Billionaires Index

View profiles for each of the world’s 500 richest people, see the biggest movers, and compare fortunes or track returns.

#72 Masayoshi Son $14.4B

Random fact: More than 2 million people follow him on Twitter, the most in Japan.

Overview

Son is the founder and largest shareholder of SoftBank, a Japanese mobile phone and investment group. The Tokyo-based company owns stakes in more than 1,000 businesses, including Yahoo Japan and Alibaba, and had revenue of $76 billion for the year ended March 31, 2016. It agreed to buy chip designer ARM Holdings Plc for $32 billion in 2016.

As of May 27, 2017:
Last change +$165M (+1.2%)
YTD change +$1.75B (+13.8%)
Industry Technology
Biggest asset 9984 JP Equity
Citizenship Japan
Age 59
Wealth Self-made
View net worth over:   Max 1 year 1 quarter 1 month 1 week

Relative Value

Masayoshi Son's net worth of $14.4B can buy ...

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troy ounces of gold
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barrels of crude oil

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of the GDP of the United States
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of the total wealth of the 500 richest people in the world
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of the top 100 U.S. college endowments
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of the top 200 U.S. executives’ total awarded compensation
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of U.S. existing home sales
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times the median U.S. household income

Latest News

Net Worth Summary

Cash
Private asset
Public asset
Misc. liabilities
Confidence rating:

The majority of Son's wealth comes from his 25 percent stake in publicly traded SoftBank, a telecommunications company in Japan. It also invests in about 1,000 internet businesses, most of which are closely held. 

Son controls the stake directly, and through two holding companies and a trust, according to a significant shareholder report dated Feb. 19, 2016 filed by Son. According to the report, Son has pledged almost 94 million of these shares as collateral against loans with almost two dozen financial institutions. All SoftBank shares held as collateral have been excluded from his net worth calculation.

Son owns residential property in Tokyo, which is valued at $45 million, according to Mitsuo Hashimoto, president of Housing Japan. Son bought property in California for $117.5 million in November 2012, according to press reports at the time. He also bought Tokyo's landmark Tiffany Building in Ginza district for $326 million in 2013. The value of Tiffany Building was adjusted to $350 million based on the rise in commercial property prices in Tokyo.

A cash outflow is applied to reflect his purchase of shares and other assets, including real estate, and takes into account donation, dividends, taxes and market performance.

Matthew Nicholson, a spokesman for SoftBank, declined to comment on the billionaire's net worth in February 2017.

Biography

Birthdate: 8/11/1957
Family: Married, 2 children
Education: 1980, Bachelor's Degree, Economics, University of California Berkeley

Son was born in Tosu, on the Japanese island of Kyushu, to a Korean immigrant family in 1957. He was the second of four brothers. His father worked at fisheries, farms, restaurants and pachinko game parlors. Because of rampant discrimination against Korean immigrants, the family adopted the Japanese surname Yasumoto in order to assimilate. Still, Son recalled being pelted with stones in grade school by Japanese classmates, according to an autobiography.

Son met his idol, McDonald's Japan founder Den Fujita in 1972, who a year earlier had started the restaurant chain that would become the largest in Japan. Fujita advised Son to study in the U.S. a year later at age 16, Son moved to San Francisco and enrolled in high school. He assumed his Korean name, and entered the University of California at Berkeley. A 1975 Popular Science cover story on the microchip inspired Son to study computer science along with economics. He made his first fortune by inventing a multilingual translator and then selling it to Sharp for about $1 million. He parlayed it by importing the Space Invaders game machines from Japan and leasing them throughout the Berkeley campus.

He returned to Japan with a bachelor's degree in economics and created SoftBank, first as a software distributor and computer magazine publisher. In the late 1980s, Son offered a system enabling fixed-line phone users to choose operators with the cheapest rates, challenging the dominance of NTT. He took money from that operation and invested it in Yahoo Japan shares in 1995. He also bought a controlling stake in online broker E*Trade Group.

Son introduced SoftBank's broadband Internet service to Japan in 2011, wooing customers with free modems and prices that undercut NTT. By 2006, he bought Vodafone Japan for $17.5 billion in cash and debt, borrowing $11.2 billion from seven banks to fund the acquisition. He renamed the unit Softbank Mobile, which had less than 16 million mobile subscribers. Through Son's friendship with Steve Jobs, SoftBank became the exclusive supplier of iPhones in Japan. That helped double its operating margin to 21 percent by 2012, and increase mobile subscribers to 30 million.

He donated $125 million and his future salary until retirement to help victims of Japan's worst earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011. He also plans to build solar farms across Japan to generate electricity to replace nuclear power using a SoftBank unit, SB Energy. Son negotiated to buy a 70 percent stake in Sprint Nextel for $20.1 billion in October 2012.

The billionaire knows Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Rupert Murdoch and Tadashi Yanai, according to an April 2014 Nikkei report. Gates would make Son's 26th-story office in Shiodome his first stop when he visits Tokyo, while Ellison invited Son to his Silicon Valley home where he met Jobs, Nikkei said. Uniqlo's Yanai has said he plans to remain a Softbank advisory board member as long as he's alive, Nikkei reported.

Milestones
  • 1957 Born in Saga Prefecture, Japan, to a family of Korean immigrants.
  • 1977 Enrolls at U.C. Berkeley, studies economics and computer science.
  • 1979 Invents electronic translation device. Sells it to Sharp for $1 million.
  • 1981 Returns to Japan and creates SoftBank with $80,000 in savings.
  • 1996 SoftBank forms Yahoo Japan and becomes primary shareholder of Yahoo Inc.
  • 2008 Sets up Alibaba.com Japan with Alibaba group.
  • 2015 Plans a $20 billion solar power venture in India with Bharti and Foxconn.
  • 2016 Meets Donald Trump and pledges to create 50,000 jobs by investing in startups.