The self-made billionaire behind Softbank’s new $20 billion stake in Sprint Nextel has long stood out in corporate Japan, said Yuri Kageyama in the Associated Press. As CEO of one of Japan’s largest wireless companies, Masayoshi Son has made a reputation as a consummate deal-maker in a staid corporate culture that favors “stability over risk-taking.” Son also stands apart for his “high-profile acknowledgement of his Korean roots,” a bold admission given Japan’s history of discrimination against its Asian neighbor.
When living in a slum on the Japanese island of Kyushu, Son and his family took on a Japanese surname for a time to avoid discrimination, said Hiroshi Hiyama in Agence France-Presse. At 16, Son moved to California to attend high school and vowed to become an entrepreneur. Shortly after returning to Japan, he launched Softbank as a computer software business, then transformed it into a mobile and wireless powerhouse. That success has financed a wide array of corporate acquisitions, including a publishing company, a baseball team, and a stake in the Japanese unit of Yahoo. In Japan, Son is widely known for his opposition to nuclear power, and has announced plans to build the country’s largest solar power plant.