Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Softbank: Mr. Son Channels Muddy and Bo.

I like Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son's style.  It is a very definite break with the general behavior of Japanese CEOs of multinational companies, with the exception of some of the Japanese auto makers.  The Wall Street Journal quoted Mr. Son saying, "I'm a man."  Since he went to school in the U.S., and since the blues are popular in Japan, it just hit me that he must be referencing Muddy Waters' iconic anthem of the same name.  It fits well with Mr. Son's message that he strives to be number 1.  Muddy performs with Little Walter and Bo above.

The Journal, echoing our sentiments from yesterday, characterizes the deal as "one of the more unusual deals in U.S. telecom history."  A decade long business relationship between Mr. Son and Sprint CEO Hesse dates back to when Hesse was CEO of TerraBeam and Mr. Son was a Cisco board member.  This is pretty traditional in most cross-border megadeals.

In an investor presentation yesterday, the WSJ reports Mr. Son telling investors,
"When two rich firms rule the market like a duopoly, we see this as a real opportunity for a challenger," Mr. Son said during a two-hour presentation to reporters Monday, referring to the two largest U.S. carriers, AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless."
Amen to that.   When he bought Vodafone's Japanese business, Mr. Son introduced discount marketing and quickly went from losing customers to rapidly gaining share.  Sprint went on the same kick in the U.S., but it hasn't proved sustainable, and they bet the farm, late in the game, on the iPhone.  It remains to be seen if SoftBank, which is now the third largest cellular carrier worldwide, can pull off a disruptive model in a U.S. market duopoly and thrive.

Mr. Son has a pretty good sense of humor, as the Journal reports him saying,
"In the last two days, Softbank's market capitalization fell by ¥1 trillion. That means we provided ¥1 trillion worth of anxiety to you. But when that money returns from its journey, it will come back to you many times larger in the form of multiple trillions of yen," said Mr. Son. "That's how I want you to see it."

U.S. consumers will benefit if Mr. Son can pull this off.  I'll be rooting for him.

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