A $20m initial bet now worth an estimated $58bn!
With Alibaba Group Holding filing to go public, the biggest winner won’t be founder Jack Ma or his fellow executives or even venture capital backers like Silver Lake Management. It’ll be Japan’s Masayoshi Son.
Bloomberg News reports that fourteen years ago, Son’s SoftBank started with a $20m bet on a then-unknown Web portal connecting Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers. That site evolved into China’s biggest Internet shopping mall and SoftBank’s stake is now estimated to be worth about $58bn, an exceptional return even by Silicon Valley’s standards.
The IPO burnishes Son’s reputation as one of the world’s savviest investors and provides more capital to a man on the hunt for deals. After taking control of the U.S. carrier Sprint Corp. last July, Son made no secret of his interest in T-Mobile US. Analysts say he may also pursue European wireless operators or take another look at music labels, after his $8.5bn bid for Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group was rebuffed.
'The guy is the Warren Buffett of Asia', said Greg Tarr, managing partner at seed fund CrossPacific Capital in Palo Alto. 'In venture capital, the way we measure success is how much was put in initially and what’s the return. Every now and then you have something worth 500 times, like a Twitter (TWTR) or an Alibaba'.
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