Like Oda, Mr. Son sees himself as a transformational figure. He has frequently said he has a 300-year vision for his company, which he has tried to position as the leading investor in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. His strategy has focused on making huge investments in companies, such as Uber, that he believes have the potential to transform and dominate entire industries.
But a series of missteps last year, including the spectacular collapse of the office-space firm WeWork, followed by the calamitous economic impact from the pandemic, forced Mr. Son to take a detour.
Whereas last summer Mr. Son found himself on the offensive, announcing a second, even larger, iteration of his Vision Fund, he now finds himself playing defense, saying he has stopped seeking outside partners for the project as he builds up his cash reserves and considers a more cautious investment strategy.
In March, Mr. Son committed to selling off $42 billion worth of SoftBank’s assets to pay down the company’s gigantic debt and bankroll an aggressive campaign of share buybacks aimed at shoring up his company’s flagging share prices.
To achieve that goal, he has tapped his most valuable assets, selling down his holdings in his most successful investment, the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, as well as in T-Mobile and SoftBank’s mobile phone service provider in Japan.
So far, the tactic seems to be paying off. SoftBank’s share price has doubled from its low in March, reaching its highest levels in 20 years. The rise has been driven in part by similar comeback stories for SoftBank’s investments.
After a pandemic-induced market crash in the spring, investors have piled back into tech stocks, driving a rally in some of SoftBank’s flagship investments, including the workplace communications tool Slack, the medical technology company Guardant Health and even Uber, which has offset losses in its ride-hailing services with increased food delivery.