Tags: Softbank | Founder | Sprint | Nextel

Softbank Founder Has 300-Year Plan in Pursuit of Sprint Nextel

Thursday, 11 October 2012 01:55 PM

In 2010, Masayoshi Son, the billionaire founder of Softbank Corp., laid out a plan for the next 300 years. For a start, he would invest in 5,000 companies by 2040, giving his unborn successors a base to build on.

Son’s ambitions have made him Japan’s second-richest man, with a fortune estimated at $9.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He has taken stakes in Yahoo Inc., Alibaba Group and Zynga Inc. and in his biggest deal, bought Vodafone Group Plc.’s mobile-phone business in Japan in 2006. He is now aiming to expand in the U.S. and is in talks to take a controlling stake in Sprint Nextel Inc.

“Son has been buying up companies one after another,” said Mitsuo Shimizu, an analyst at Iwai Cosmo Securities. “He’s very bold and takes a lot of risks to make Softbank bigger.”

In his 300-year plan, Son, 55, laid out a Darwinian comparison of business to living species and forecast that 99.98 percent of companies would cease to exist in their current form over the next 30 years. He vowed Tokyo-based Softbank would.

“I’ve gathered you here to talk about our 30-year vision, but while I’m telling stories and this may be my last one, may as well make it 300 years,” Son said when he presented the plan in 2010. “As a founder, I’ve played my role by creating Softbank’s DNA.”

Immigrant Parents

Son, who was born in Japan to Korean parents who had immigrated to the country, left home at 16 to study in the U.S. and was inspired to a career in technology after seeing a schematic for a microprocessor in 1975, according to a Softbank presentation.

His entrepreneurial streak emerged at the University of California, Berkeley, where he invented a voice-operated multilingual translator that he sold to Sharp Corp. for 100 million yen in 1979, about $456,000 at the average exchange rate that year, or $1.27 million today. He also capitalized on a burgeoning appetite for video games, importing bestselling Space Invaders machines from Japan and leasing them to cafeterias.

In the late 1980s, he offered a system enabling fixed-line phone users to choose operators with the cheapest rates, threatening the dominance of Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp., which was privatized in 1985. When Son introduced Softbank’s broadband Internet service in 2001, he grabbed customers from NTT with free modems and prices that undercut NTT’s by as much as half.

By 2006, Son had transformed his Internet venture capital company into a full-fledged phone service firm similar to NTT via 2 trillion-yen acquisitions of Japan Telecom Co. and the Japanese unit of Vodafone.

Softbank was the first carrier for Apple Inc. iPhone and iPad in Japan, helping the company boost earnings seven-fold over the past four years to a record 314 billion yen of net income. The shares have risen 27 percent this year, giving the company a market value of 3.2 trillion yen. Son aims to raise that to 200 trillion yen by 2040.

“A person’s life is over in 50, 100 years,” said Son. “But a company lives on through the people it is composed of and Softbank group has to survive even after I’m gone.”

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In 2010, Masayoshi Son, the billionaire founder of Softbank Corp., laid out a plan for the next 300 years.
Thursday, 11 October 2012 01:55 PM
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