Masayoshi Son, the Korean-Japanese, University of California, Berkeley-educated founder of one of Japan’s most successful companies, SoftBank Group:
Like Buffett, Son is a tremendous capital allocator with a highly impressive record: Over the past nine and a half years, SoftBank’s investments have delivered a 45% annualized rate of return. A big chunk of this success can be attributed to one stock: Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, a $100 million investment SoftBank made in 2001 that is worth about $80 billion today.
Though you may put Alibaba in the (positive) black swan column, Son’s success as an investor goes well beyond it – the list of his investments that have brought multi-bagger returns is long. The 57-year-old Son is Japan’s richest person, and SoftBank, which he started in 1981 and owns 19% of, has a market capitalization of $72 billion.
Like Apple co-founder Jobs, Son is blessed with clairvoyance. He saw the internet as a transformative force well before that fact became common knowledge. In 1995 he invested in a then-tiny company, Yahoo!, earning six times his investment. But he didn’t stop there; he created a joint venture with Yahoo! by forming Yahoo! Japan, putting about $70 million into a company that today is worth around $8 billion. (Yahoo! Japan is a publicly traded company listed in Japan.)
What is shocking is that Son saw that the iPhone would revolutionize the telecom industry before Apple announced it or even invented it. See for yourself in this excerpt from an interview with Charlie Rose, where Son describes his conversation with Jobs in 2005 – two years before the iPhone was introduced:
I brought my little drawing of [an] iPod with mobile capabilities. I gave [Jobs] my drawing, and Steve says, “Masa, you don’t give me your drawing. I have my own.” I said, “Well, I don’t need to give you my dirty paper, but once you have your product, give me for Japan.” He said, “Well, Masa, you are crazy. We have not talked to anybody, but you came to see me as the first guy. I give to you.