It turns out Masayoshi Son isn’t ready to retire after all.
Just a year ago, SoftBank Group Corp.’s founder looked poised to fulfill his long-stated plan of stepping aside in his 60’s. He had a global telecom empire, track record of spectacularly successful investments and a bright young successor. Instead, the 59-year-old edged aside his heir apparent, cut the biggest deal of his career yet and revealed on Friday his ambition to become one of the world’s most powerful investors.
SoftBank said it is forming a new fund to put as much as $100 billion in the global technology industry in the next five years, partnering with Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund to find companies that will become influential in the future. By comparison, all the venture capital funds in the world disbursed a record $129.5 billion in funding in 2015, according to CB Insights.
The man who once proclaimed his goal of creating the world’s most valuable company isn’t hiding his ambition: Over the next decade, he aims to be “the biggest investor” in technology.
In other words, Japan’s second-richest man isn’t going anywhere. Son in 2014 brought in Nikesh Arora, luring the former Google executive with a pay package that rivaled those of Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook and Walt Disney Co.’s Bob Iger. He spent two years grooming him as a successor only to change his mind in June. A month later SoftBank announced plans for a $32 billion takeover of chip designer ARM Holdings Plc, Son’s biggest bet to date and a wager on the future of interconnected devices. “For some time, it seemed like Son has fatigued, considering retirement and bringing in Arora. It is pretty clear now that he is still full of zeal,” said Makoto Kikuchi, chief executive officer of Myojo Asset Management Co.
It is not yet clear who will call the shots at what is tentatively named SoftBank Vision Fund and the Japanese company declined to comment further, noting the fund had not yet closed. SoftBank named Rajeev Misra, its head of strategic finance, to lead the project.
Son has made tens of billions in returns from investments in companies including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Yahoo and Supercell Oy, and the new fund will likely pursue a similar strategy of backing technology companies at all stages. While Arora was SoftBank’s president, the company had plans to put about $3 billion into startups each year.