Our story begins with a dinner Son hosted one summer night in 2016 at his nine-acre estate in Woodside. The table was set in the garden so the guests could enjoy the crisp summer air of a northern
California evening, as well as the breathtaking hilltop
views of San Francisco horse country.
Among the attendees was Simon Segars, who had no
idea when he sat down to eat that this would be one of the
most important events of his life. Segars, CEO of chip designer Arm, had imagined that he might win some new
business from Son—perhaps SoftBank would agree to
put Arm’s chips in the cell phones it sells through its telecommunications businesses. He didn’t fully appreciate
at that moment that one of his dining companions, Ron
Fisher, has been one of Son’s trusted consiglieri for more
than 30 years and is almost always present when Son is
considering a major deal. “We started talking about AI
and all these future-looking technologies,” Segars recalls,
and Son grew visibly animated. They discussed how
Arm’s technology could be used to turn anything—tables,
chairs, refrigerators, cars, doors, keys—into a wired object. Son pressed Segars: If money were no constraint,
how many devices could his technology create? As the
leader of a publicly traded company, Segars had never
been asked to think this way before. “I remember Simon’s
eyes getting very wide,” Fisher recalls.
A few days later, Segars was at his desk when a call
came from Tokyo: It was Son, who said he needed to see
him and Arm chairman Stuart Chambers right away.
Chambers was on vacation, on a yacht off the Turkish
coast, but Son didn’t want to wait. He sent a private jet to
fetch Segars and persuaded Chambers to dock his boat in
the Eastern Mediterranean.
The day unfolded like a scene from a James Bond
movie: Segars landed at a small airstrip near the village
of Marmaris, Turkey, where t wo security men picked him
up and whisked him to an empty restaurant overlooking
the marina. (Son had arranged to have it cleared of other
customers.) “It was surreal,” Segars says.
Son got right to it: He wanted Arm and was willing to
pay for it. In a deal that would astound Wall Street for its
speed and audacity, SoftBank offered $32 billion for the
company, 43% more than its market value at the time.
Son negotiated and closed the deal in two weeks. A photo
of that trip to Turkey shows Son standing by the port of
Marmaris, boats bobbing on the sea behind him. He is
smiling, as though he knows how big this moment is.
To pursue his sweeping vision of interconnecting
everyday objects to create intelligent machines, Son
would need more money. So he created the Vision Fund.
The first investor was the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, with a $45 billion commitment that October.
It’s hard to overemphasize the significance of the Saudis
coming in at this stage. The entire global venture capital
industry invested just over $70 billion annually, so the
idea of a single $100 billion fund seemed fantastical.
The move conveyed such confidence in Son’s vision and
ability to execute on it that it quickly attracted other
investors, such as Apple, Foxconn, and Qualcomm. By
the following May, the fund had secured $93 billion. As
Son explained at the time, he needed this much capital
There’s an opportunity to consolidate and automate the
fractured world of real estate.
as a service
We Work that
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Power Move BigPicture
Agricultural and forestry
Total real estate
investment in 2017
Son’s Obsession No. 1