“Tactically, I’ve made regrets. Strategically, I am unchanged:” The Masa Son interview

SoftBank boss on the WeWork debacle and the future of the Vision Fund

TRD NATIONAL /
Apr.April 06, 2020 06:30 PM
Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

Following the billions it has plowed into now-beleaguered WeWork, compounded by the coronavirus crisis, SoftBank’s stock is trading well below the value of its assets.

Put another way, public-market investors seem to think Softbank’s $100 billion Vision Fund is actually worth less than zero.

But CEO Masayoshi Son is undeterred. In an interview with Forbes, the Japanese billionaire insisted that his long-term vision remained the same despite some short-term mistakes.

“Tactically, I’ve made regrets,” Son told the magazine. “But strategically, I am unchanged. Vision-wise? Unchanged.”

WeWork’s IPO debacle stands out as the top tactical regret. “We paid too much valuation for WeWork, and we did too much believe in the entrepreneur,” Son said.

Beside the struggling Vision Fund, Softbank’s holdings include several other pieces with far more solid value propositions. The company’s stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba alone — now valued at more than $120 billion, after Son invested $20 million back in 1999 — is worth more than Softbank’s market cap. Other pieces include British chipmaker Arm and wireless carrier Sprint, as well as Softbank’s core telecommunication business.

But overall, the conglomerate’s stock is trading at 73 percent less than the value of the sum of its parts. As things stand, the conglomerate’s stock price would actually rise if the Vision Fund simply shut down.

But Son has experienced this before. “In the beginning of the internet, I was criticized the same way,” he said. “Even more so than now.”

Son made billions of dollars during the dot-com bubble of the early 2000s, only to lose 99 percent of SoftBank’s market cap in the subsequent crash. But he’s made billions back again, with a net worth of $16.6 billion.

“Twenty years ago, people were saying, Amazon, why is it an internet company? It’s just a retail company, right?” Son said, responding to criticisms that many of the Vision Fund’s investment don’t seem to fit into his artificial intelligence-centric vision. “Today, people say, oh, it’s just transportation. It’s just real estate. It’s other obvious things, with AI used only a little bit. But you have to understand this is just the beginning.”

“Despite people’s view that SoftBank might be struggling, we continue to grow,” Son told investors at a meeting the following day. “Don’t think about the past.” [Forbes] — Kevin Sun


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
Wendy Silverstein (Credit: Getty Images)

Wendy Silverstein, co-head of WeWork’s real-estate fund, is out

Wendy Silverstein, co-head of WeWork’s real-estate fund, is out
WeWork CEO Adam Neumann (Credit: Getty Images and iStock)

WeWork’s side businesses are fizzling

WeWork’s side businesses are fizzling
Sarah Pontius (Credit: Union College)

Another head rolls at WeWork

Another head rolls at WeWork
Cadillac Fairview CEO John Sullivan and the RCB Centre in Toronto (Google)

This Canadian office giant has a strategy for a return to work

This Canadian office giant has a strategy for a return to work
Bars, restaurants and live entertainment venues around the world are now weighing their reopening options. Some owners say they can’t cover the cost of operating at reduced capacity. (Getty)

Facing the music: Entertainment venues, restaurants weigh reopening options

Facing the music: Entertainment venues, restaurants weigh reopening options
Anbang’s Andrew Miller, Mirae’s Peter Lee and (from left) JW Marriott Essex House, the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco and the Four Seasons in Jackson Hole (Credit: Marriott, Westin, Four Seasons)

Buyer’s remorse?: How Anbang’s $5.8B hotel deal went sideways

Buyer’s remorse?: How Anbang’s $5.8B hotel deal went sideways
Softbank's Marcelo Claure, Masayoshi Son and Rajeev Misra (Getty; iStock)

Internal feud at SoftBank casts doubt on Vision Fund

Internal feud at SoftBank casts doubt on Vision Fund
Commercial real estate property sales fell to their lowest level in a decade as a result of the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (Pixabay)

TRD Insights: Commercial deal volume plummeted 71% in April

TRD Insights: Commercial deal volume plummeted 71% in April
arrow_forward_ios

The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

Loading...