Masayoshi Son has just cemented his place as the unquestioned king of comebacks.
Son, who holds the distinction of losing the most wealth in the world before making it all back, has managed to script a similar turnaround for his firm, Softbank. After appearing to teeter on the brink last year following several of its bets going awry, Softbank has now stunned critics by reporting the highest-ever profit for a Japanese company. Softbank Group reported profits of $48 billion for the fourth quarter, while Softbank Vision Fund, which invests in startups, reported a profit of $37 billion.
This is a complete turnaround from just last year, when Softbank’s Vision Fund had reported a massive loss of $18 billion, and its stock had fallen the most in seven years. Softbank had been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which saw some of its biggest startup bets, including Airbnb, Oyo and WeWork see their businesses be impacted. Softbank Vision Fund, which was the world’s largest startup fund, was forced to fire 10% of its employees to cut costs.
But this quarter, Softbank saw a massive gain tfrom South Korean e-commerce company Coupang, which had recently gone public. Other Softbank bets, including WeWork and ride-hailing firm Grab, have also outlined plans to list via SPAC mergers. “It’s clearly validation of Masa’s thesis,” said Navneet Govil, Vision Fund’s chief financial officer.
Masayoshi Son knows a thing or two about startup investing. He was one of the early investors in Yahoo, and was worth $78 billion before the dot-com bust. He then lost nearly all of his wealth, but then invested $30 million in a little-known Chinese startup named Alibaba. More than a decade later, that investment was worth $130 billion, becoming one of the most successful startup bets in history. He’d then aggressively invested in several startups around the world, including Snapdeal, Oyo, Ola and Paytm in India. These had met with varying success, but one of his most ambitious bets, WeWork, had floundered, and the coronavirus pandemic had cast a shadow over his entire fund. But with Softbank now posting record profits, Masa Son has shown that he’s back, and isn’t quite out of lives just yet.