SoftBank‘s founder Masayoshi Son believes that at least 15 companies in the Vision Fund might go bankrupt as the company tightens its financial belt. Son’s Vision Fund is becoming less generous with cash handouts to its portfolio companies after the WeWork debacle.
At the time SoftBank invested in WeWork, it was valued around $47 billion. However, within a short period, things started to go wrong. WeWork’s co-founder Adam Neumann was ousted as CEO, claims were made concerning his bizarre behavior and self-interest, and the original valuation was revised from $47 billion to a figure closer to $12 billion. WeWork’s highly anticipated IPO was also withdrawn, and combined with disappointing Uber and Slack IPOs, the SoftBank Vision Fund reported operating losses of ¥225 billion.
“I would say 15 of them will go bankrupt,” Son predicted in an exclusive interview with Forbes. Adding to that, he expects at least another 15 of the company’s 88 bets to succeed.
It’s part of Son’s plan for SoftBank to return $150 billion in order to pay back its limited partners while remaining profitable. Its Vision Fund has a reputation for making huge investments in companies with high growth and high spendings, like WeWork, Uber, and Doordash, but its market value has slid in the past month as coronavirus makes profitability seem increasingly out of reach for many startups.
Son, who lost billions when the dot-com bubble popped 20 years ago, is now working to convince SoftBank’s investors that the fund can weather a potential recession spurred by the coronavirus epidemic.
“In the beginning of the internet, I was criticized the same way,” he told Forbes. “Tactically, I’ve made regrets … but strategically, I am unchanged. Vision-wise? Unchanged.”