Look out Google, SoftBank's Son wants to be a 'platformer,' too

Look out Google, SoftBank's Son wants to be a 'platformer,' too

TOKYO - When SoftBank Group Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son found himself in a meeting with Saudi Arabian King Salman and US President Donald Trump in the king's palace in Riyadh in May, it was all part of a gamble by the Japanese tycoon to take his empire beyond telecommunications and into the realm of the true giants. Think Google, Apple and Amazon.com.  

Son was there thanks to a 10 trillion yen ($89.8 billion) investment fund that SoftBank established with Saudi Arabia to channel oil money into US information-technology startups. The move also served a diplomatic purpose by helping improve shaky ties between the US and the Middle Eastern country.

The fund's massive scale reflects Son's thinking that small bets and "safe driving" will get him nowhere in his push to make SoftBank a world-class IT powerhouse.

Becoming a "platformer"

Last fiscal year, SoftBank's net profit topped 1 trillion yen, making it only the second Japanese nonfinancial company to hit that number after Toyota Motor. But Son's ambitions go far beyond profit figures.

The global IT industry is currently dominated by the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon. Son has described such companies as "platformers" -- players so powerful that they set the industry standards. Their presence has spread to countless sectors, from automobiles to financial services to health care, and has fundamentally changed the way business is done.

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