OCTOBER 31, 2005
Softbank and F1
Softbank, Japan's biggest IT business, is rumoured to be the funding behind the rumoured Honda B team. The company is controlled by 48-year-old billionaire Masayoshi Son, who has been using sports to promote his business in the past few years, buying the naming rights to the Green Stadium in Kobe, and renaming it after Yahoo! BB, one of his most successful businesses. Son also acquired the Fukuoka Hawks baseball teams, which is based in the area of southern Japan where he grew up.
From a Korean family which settled in Japan, Son was educated in America, ending up at university in Berkeley where he soon realised the potential of computer technology and quickly made his first million with an automatic translating device. He returned to Japan in 1981 and started Softbank, a firm which was originally a publisher of software and computer media. This was a success and in 1995 he bought Ziff-Davis, the world's largest IT-related publishing company. That was just one of his investments in the early part of the Internet boom, the most important one being a 37% share of Yahoo! At the height of the dot.com boom Softbank was valued at $140bn and while many of the businesses later ran into trouble, Son's successes easily outweighed thye failures and by reducing his stake in Yahoo! he was able to fund other acquisitions, notably in the broadband industry and in telecommunications. Softbank recently bought Japan Telecom for $3bn.
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