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Inside the Eccentric, Relentless Deal-Making of Masayoshi Son

Source | www.bloomberg.com : By Peter Elstrom 

Early last year, Cheng Wei, founder and chief executive of the Chinese ride-hailing juggernaut Didi Chuxing, tried to resist taking money from legendary investor Masayoshi Son. Cheng told the SoftBank Group chief he didn’t need the cash because his company had already raised $10 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. Fine, Son said, then suggested he might direct his support to one of Didi’s rivals. Cheng relented and took the investment: $5 billion in the largest fundraising round ever for a tech startup.

Son pulled a similar maneuver in November, publicly warning Uber Technologies that if he didn’t get the deal he wanted, his backing would go to archrival Lyft. Uber also took the money in a $9 billion investment unveiled last week.

Masayoshi Son has been an unstoppable force in the technology world over the last year. As he lined up a roster of big backers—Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and Apple’s Tim Cook among them—for SoftBank’s planned $100 billion Vision Fund, Son took stakes in scores of businesses engaged in a dizzying array of activities: ride-hailing, chip-making, office-sharing, satellite-building, robot-making, even indoor kale-farming.

 Son’s idiosyncratic deal-making has confounded admirers and detractors for years. And the latest frenzy has been no exception. In deal after deal, according to people involved, Son pressed to meet founders face to face, encouraged them to take more money than they wanted and wielded his outsized checkbook as a weapon. Along the way, he rattled rivals with his growing influence and changed the game of startup investing — for better or worse.
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