Jesus also misunderstood, Masayoshi Son tells investors

Masayoshi Son compared himself to Jesus Christ while defending his investment strategy, after disclosing that SoftBank had run up a record $13bn annual loss on Monday.

The 62-year-old founder and chief executive of the Japanese technology conglomerate has vowed that his $100bn Vision Fund will tackle “the biggest challenges and risks facing humanity today”.

As analysts pressed him on its poor performance so far during an investor call on Monday, Mr Son noted that Jesus was also misunderstood and criticised, according to three people who were on the call.

Two of them said Mr Son used the analogy to suggest that his reputation would be reassessed if the fortunes of his investments improved.

Mr Son, who has in the past quoted Yoda from the Star Wars films and urged investors to “listen to the Force”, also suggested that the Beatles had not been popular when they first started.

He spoke after he was asked whether he felt he was misunderstood by the media and whether there was a gap between the public’s view of SoftBank and his vision, according to another person who joined the call. 

SoftBank declined to comment.

The investor call involved questions about the future of the $100bn Vision Fund, which saw its value marked down by $18bn after several of its large bets, including the ride-hailing companies Uber and Didi and the hotel company Oyo, were hit by the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Son compared the crisis to the Great Depression, saying the Dow Jones took 25 years to recover and he expected a “similar impact” from the pandemic. “I would say this is unprecedented crisis that we are experiencing,” he said in an earnings call.

He added that because the performance of the first Vision Fund is “not that great,” SoftBank would continue to use its own money for a second Vision Fund. “We decided not to do the marketing for Vision Fund 2 for the partners for awhile [ . . .] If the performance is not very good, then, of course, the money for Vision Fund 2 cannot be asked [from] other people.”

SoftBank also warned on Monday that it may not pay a dividend for the coming financial year for the first time since its 1994 listing, and added that Jack Ma, founder of Chinese internet company Alibaba, would step down as a director after 13 years.

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