Hard landing for SoftBank? WeWork woes raise questions

TOKYO (AFP) – SoftBank Group CEO Masayoshi Son is no stranger to controversy, but a meltdown at WeWork has sparked pointed questions about whether his enormous investments and futuristic pronouncements are more style than substance.

It has been a tough year for Son, who transformed a firm that began in software into a powerful tech investor that backs some of Silicon Valley’s most well-known start-ups.

“He is a gambler,” said Chief Analyst for Telecommunications and Digital Services at ITR Corporation Marc Einstein, a research firm. “He has made more money than anyone else in Japan, but he is also losing more money than anyone.”

In May, there was the disappointing IPO of one of its marquee investments Uber, which has seen its shares drop almost 30 per cent since its debut.

And there have been tough questions about SoftBank’s ties with Saudi Arabia – a key partner in the firm’s USD100 billion Vision Fund.

SoftBank’s long-mooted Vision Fund 2 was announced in July, with Apple, Microsoft and Foxconn on board.