How is SoftBank’s CEO doing? (Actually, not so bad.)

After the WeWork debacle, billionaire investor Masayoshi Son has cleaned up his books and is back with more firepower.


October 19, 2020

Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

This time last year, Masayoshi Son was the laughingstock of the investing world.

The SoftBank CEO had bet a big part of his ~$99B super-VC Vision Fund on WeWork and — pardon our French — it ate sh*t.

The 63-year-old billionaire is not the type to dwell, though.

He lost $70B in 2000 when the dotcom bubble burst

But still had the intestinal fortitude to cut a $20m check to a little-known Chinese entrepreneur named Jack Ma. That investment in Alibaba is now worth $100B+, or a 5000x return. #FlexingOnEm

Post-WeWork, Son has shed a ton of assets to make room for more bets. He raised $80B+ in cash by selling stakes in SoftBank’s Japanese telecoms unit, T-Mobile, Alibaba, and the entirety of chip designer ARM.

Some of that money has gone into a massive Big Tech options bet (e.g., $AMZN, $GOOGL) dubbed the “NASDAQ Whale.”

The Vision Fund was in the red but rallied

In the 3 years of its existence the fund is up ~10%, according to The Economist. While the NASDAQ has returned 10x this figure over the same period, some of Son’s bets that have gone public are doing nicely:

  • 10X Genomics (an increase of ~11x on invested capital)
  • Guardant Health (8.5x)
  • Vir Biotech (3.6x)
  • Slack and Uber (meh)

The Vision Fund still has stakes in hot startups that are benefiting massively from the post-pandemic digital reality: DoorDash, ByteDance (TikTok parent) and Coupang (South Korea’s Amazon).

SoftBank is raising a SPAC because… why not?

There’s concern that Son could use this popular financing vehicle to bring one of his dud startups to the markets (FYI: if Son SPACs WeWork, we’re shutting down The Hustle).

The Vision Fund has already placed $83B across 92 firms while a second (less famous) Vision Fund has done 13 deals, per The Economist.

In a (maybe) apocryphal fundraising story, Son told Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, “give me $100B and I’ll give you $1T.”

Well, Vision Fund 1 is a 12-year investment vehicle, meaning we have 9 years to go… so Masa may very well get the last laugh.

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