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Profile: Masayoshi Son

16 October, 2012

Masayoshi Son has always had a penchant for thinking big.

When he set up his own business in 1980, the oft-repeated story goes, he stood up on a box in front of his two part-time employees and declared that the fledgling PC distribution company would be generating Y50bn ($635m) in revenues in 10 years.

More recently, after entering the mobile phone market by acquiring Vodafone Japan in 2006, as the smallest and weakest of Japan’s three operators, Mr Son announced that SoftBank would surpass industry giant, NTT DoCoMo, in 10 years.

“Most people laughed at us,” the irrepressible Mr Son recalled on Monday as he unveiled plans to acquire Sprint and become the third-largest mobile phone group in the world by revenues, far surpassing DoCoMo in combined sales and subscriber numbers.

In between his early days running a small PC venture business and becoming head of a sprawling mobile phone empire, Mr Son, who is of Korean descent, has ventured into businesses as diverse as banking, IT exhibitions and media.

Many of his investments flopped, such as that in Kingston Technology, a memory chipmaker, and Speednet, a high-speed internet service provider.

Among his most memorable moves was an attempt, together with Rupert Murdoch, to take over TV Asahi, a major broadcaster, which was rebuffed by other members of the Asahi media group.

Nevertheless, many of Mr Son’s investments, including that in Aozora Bank, Yahoo! Japan and Alibaba, the Chinese online retailer, have been hugely profitable for SoftBank and Mr Son.

His outstanding trait is an unflagging confidence in his own ability to succeed, regardless of the huge obstacles facing him.

Having defied the critics who said the huge debt taken on by SoftBank to buy Vodafone Japan and enter the mobile phone business would be its downfall, Mr Son seems energised to take on the world.

Recently, he unveiled his goal for the group to become a company with a market capitalisation of at least Y200tn in 30 years’ time, compared with Y2.49tn at Monday’s close.

Asked on Monday whether he is planning to build his mobile phone group into the world’s largest, Mr Son conceded he had ambitions to do so, “since I have been born a man.”

“I will definitely achieve that within my lifetime,” he said.

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Profile: Masayoshi Son

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