SoftBank boss: ‘Losses won’t stop me fighting’

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son. (AFP/File)
Updated 06 December 2019

SoftBank boss: ‘Losses won’t stop me fighting’

  • SoftBank owns 26 percent of China’s Alibaba

TOKYO: Weeks after his billion-dollar bailout of WeWork, SoftBank Group Corp’s founder and CEO Masayoshi Son reiterated his belief in an instinct-led investing style, in a discussion with Alibaba Group Holding Inc’s co-founder Jack Ma.

SoftBank owns 26 percent of China’s Alibaba, with its origin in a $20 million investment in 2000, and the stake is now worth more than the Japanese firm’s market capitalization.

Son on Friday said the decision to invest in Alibaba was driven by a gut feeling.

Other entrepreneurs Son met at that time “did not have true belief in their heart. I can feel,” Son said. “We are the same animal. We are both a little crazy,” he said of long-time ally Ma.

Ma said Son initially tried to invest $50 million in the e-commerce firm, but that he declined saying it was too large a sum — part of a pattern of offering big cheques to company founders that continued with WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann.

Son’s comments come weeks after he was forced to bail out office-sharing startup WeWork when Neumann’s level of control over his firm and hard-partying ways chilled investor appetite and crashed plans for an initial public offering (IPO).

Son last month said he misjudged Neumann’s character, after WeWork — formally The We Company — and other sputtering bets saw his $100 billion Vision Fund report an $8.9 billion second-quarter operating loss.

The conversation at Tokyo University between two of Asia’s leading tech entrepreneurs comes at a point of divergence in their careers, with 55-year-old Ma retiring as Alibaba’s executive chairman in September and Son pledging to spend his sixth decade at the helm of his juggernaut.

SoftBank hopes to drive commercialization of the emerging field of artificial intelligence (AI), announcing on Friday it will spend 20 billion yen ($184 million) over 10 years funding an AI research institute with Tokyo University.

Son “probably has the biggest guts in the world on doing investment,” Ma said.

“Too much guts, sometimes I lose a lot of money,” Son responded.

“I have not achieved anything yet,” Son said. “I’m still a challenger and every day I’m still fighting.”


Arab News recording exposes Nissan lawyer’s lie on IMF bailout for Lebanon

Updated 01 June 2020

Arab News recording exposes Nissan lawyer’s lie on IMF bailout for Lebanon

LONDON: Arab News has published the recording of an interview with a Nissan lawyer after he denied saying that a bailout of Lebanon by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was linked to the extradition of fugitive tycoon Carlos Ghosn.

The former Nissan chairman fled to Beirut in December from Japan, where he faced charges of financial wrongdoing.

In a story published in Arab News Japan on Saturday, Sakher El Hachem, Nissan’s legal representative in Lebanon, said the multibillion-dollar IMF bailout was contingent on Ghosn being handed back to Japan. 

The lawyer said IMF support for Lebanon required Japan’s agreement. Lebanese officials had told him: “Japan will assist Lebanon if Ghosn gets extradited,” the lawyer said

“For Japan to agree on that they want the Lebanese authorities to extradite Ghosn, otherwise they won’t provide Lebanon with financial assistance. Japan is one of the IMF’s major contributors … if Japan vetoes Lebanon then the IMF won’t give Lebanon money, except after deporting Ghosn.”

On Sunday, El Hachem denied making the comments. “The only thing I told the newspaper was that there should have been a court hearing on April 30 in Lebanon, but it was postponed because of the pandemic,” he said. In response, Arab News published the recording of the interview, in which he can be clearly heard making the statements attributed to him. 

Japan issued an arrest warrant after Ghosn, 66, escaped house arrest and fled the country.

Now listen to the recording: