In 2014, Brazilian businessman Eike Batista lost an incredible amount of money due to a sharp fall in the global commodities market. In less than a year, Eike’s net worth fell by $ 35.5 billion unless $ 200 million. You might assume that the $ 34.3 billion loss could be the biggest drop in personal wealth ever, but that’s not true. This honor belongs to a Japanese man named Masayoshi son. Masayoshi Son is the founder and CEO of Japanese telecommunications conglomerate SoftBank. In 2000, as the dot-com bubble grew, Masayoshi Son’s net worth peaked at 76 billion dollars. Then the bubble burst. Exploded might actually be a better word. As Softbank’s stock price fell, Masayoshi Son suffered the largest loss in personal net worth in human history. Here is that story …
Masayoshi Son moved with his family from Japan to California when he was just 16 years old. He barely spoke English, but eventually graduated from UC Berkeley with degrees in economics and computer science. One of its first companies imported cheap versions of the arcade game Space Invaders and then rented them out from laundromats. Shortly after turning 24, Masayoshi Son founded SoftBank in Tokyo. Within a year, SoftBank was developing various PC programs in addition to publishing two popular magazines focused on the personal computer industry. Always in search of the bigger and the better, Masayoshi Son spent the next decade transforming SoftBank into a full-fledged media and telecommunications empire. In the mid-1990s, SoftBank operated a stock brokerage firm and the leading provider of satellite TV in Japan. He also convinced Yahoo to allow him to independently launch what would become Japan’s largest search engine, Yahoo! Japan.
After taking SoftBank public in 1995, Masayoshi Son became a billionaire overnight. Over the next five years, he used SoftBank’s newly acquired war chest to expand his empire at a very rapid rate, as the Dotcom bubble heated up. In 1999, SoftBank was one of the largest internet technology companies in the world. Through SoftBank, Masayoshi Son acquired significant stakes in dozens of high-profile companies including E * Trade, Alibaba, and the Nippon Credit Bank of Japan.
For a while, these investments looked brilliant, and SoftBank’s market capitalization hit an all-time high of $ 180 billion. As the owner of 42% of SoftBank’s equity, Masayoshi Son’s net worth has reached a huge 76 billion dollars in early 2000. Two months later, on March 10, 2000, the NASDAQ Composite (the exchange that listed nearly all Internet bubble companies), peaked at 5,048, more than double the value of a year plus early. At this point in history, there were over 300 Internet companies listed on NASDAQ with a combined value of $ 1.3 trillion that essentially didn’t exist three years ago. Two months later, in May 2000, the NASDAQ composite had fallen to 3,300. On September 28, 2001 (as the country recovered from September 11), the NASDAQ fell to 1,500. A year later, the market reached a low of 1,200. That’s a 76% drop over two very painful years.
A company like SoftBank, which is heavily exposed to the Internet industry, has not done well in these difficult times. Every investment that Masayoshi Son had championed over the past five years has been decimated. As an example, Softbank’s $ 400 million investment in E * Trade has been reduced to just $ 22 million. Softbank’s market capitalization fell 98% from $ 180 billion to $ 2.5 billion. And with this drop, Masayoshi Son’s net worth fell from a record low of 76 billion dollars at a record level of $ 1.1 billion. A personal loss of $ 74.9 billion. Ouch.
Ok, he was still a billionaire, and maybe we shouldn’t feel too bad for him. But in the words of the great Chris Rock, “If Bill Gates woke up tomorrow with Oprah’s money, he would jump out a fucking window and slit his throat on the way down and say, ‘I can’t even put gas on my plane! “ So maybe we give the guy some sympathy.
And if you’re feeling bad for Masayoshi Son, we’ve got some good news. Over time, Softbank slowly began to recover and rebuild. Today, Softbank is the third largest internet company in Japan thanks in large part to its acquisition of mobile phone giant Sprint. As of August 2017, Masayoshi Son owns 22% of Softbank and has a personal net worth of $ 31 billion.
Masayoshi Son lives in a three-story, $ 50 million Tokyo mansion that has a private, programmable golf course that can mimic the temperature and weather conditions of any of the best golf courses in the world. When Bill Gates visited his home, he was reportedly speechless. In 2012, Masayoshi Son lost $ 117 million to buy a mansion in Woodside, California, near Silicon Valley. He also owns a Japanese professional baseball team called the Softbank Hawks. He might not be $ 76 billion anymore, but it looks like he’s surviving. How would you feel after realizing that your net worth has dropped by $ 74.5 billion?