SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son says he was ‘so stupid’ to miss funding Amazon because of lack of money

Son said that accepting mistakes would help him learn from them and become smarter. (REUTERS/Neil Hall)

Before Jeff Bezos took his company Amazon.com public back in 1997, SoftBank’s Founder and Chief Executive Masayoshi Son had an opportunity to become an early investor in now e-commerce behemoth. However, he couldn’t become one because he simply didn’t have enough money back then. “I am so stupid. Don’t embarrass me. I am so much regretting (about it in) my life,” Son said in an interview at The New York Times’ Dealbook conference earlier this week. Son had met Bezos before Amazon’s IPO and the two had also “almost” agreed for investment. While Son had offered $100 million in exchange for a 30 per cent equity stake, Bezos insisted on $130 million. Son had also seemingly agreed upon the $350 million valuation up from $300 million that he offered to Bezos.

“I said maybe you are right and I said I would talk to my guys in Tokyo and come back to you. Everybody (back in Tokyo) said that maybe that’s a crazy idea but where’s the money. After discussing for one hour, I said well, yes we don’t have money. And so, we gave up that idea,” Son said.

The SoftBank chief, who had earlier backed WeWork which turned out to be a massive loss for him, said that was a mistake on his part. Son had reportedly invested $18.5 billion in WeWork which was once valued as high as $47 billion before its failed IPO last year. SoftBank had given a valuation of $2.9 billion as of March 31, 2020, based on a discounted cash flow method, according to a CNBC report in May this year. “Adam Neuman himself admits that he made few mistakes. Any human makes some mistake…I’m a part of the responsibility of his mistake. I still love and respect him. I’m sure he will come back and do some great stuff. We made a lot of loss in investment in WeWork, billions of dollars, and that is my mistake.”

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Son said that accepting mistakes would help him learn from them and become “smarter”. “There are two kinds of people making mistakes. First, who doesn’t want to admit that they have made mistake and make all kinds of excuses and justify the wrong decision. And the other group is one who admits the mistake. I would rather accept my stupidity and my ignorance for bad decisions so that I can learn from my mistake and not to repeat it so that I can become smarter.”

SoftBank Group had posted a $6.1 billion profit for the September quarter vis-à-vis $6.5 billion loss in the year-ago period following losses from Uber and WeWork. The company had committed $5 billion more to its second Vision Fund in October this year up from $5 billion committed to the fund by the Group and its subsidiaries as of September 30, 2020. The second fund was launched in October 2019, targeting a $108 billion size. It had also announced last week about the resignation of four of its top leaders from its board including Vision Fund’s CEO Rajeev Misra, group COO Marcelo Claure, CSO Katsunori Sago, and Governor and Board Member of the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia Yasir O. Al-Rumayyan.

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