Founder Masayoshi Son says goodbye to investor calls as SoftBank gets defensive

SoftBank Group founder Masayoshi Son has bid farewell to the earnings presentations he’s led for decades as falling startup valuations force the company to fight back. The 65-year-old said he would no longer speak at quarterly events after the Tokyo-based company’s Vision Fund investment arm posted a $7.2 billion loss. He assigns the responsibility for the events to the financial director Yoshimitsu Goto, as well as to several lieutenants.

SoftBank, which for years was the most aggressive technology investor in the world, has all but stopped new investments and focused on its balance sheet. With no clear takeover in sight, Son said he was no longer the right person to lead the calls and would spend his time taking his Arm Ltd chip designer public. Son declared Goto, a low-key former banker, the company’s defensive champ.

“Goto is more fit than me to play defense,” Son said in what he said was his final results briefing. “I’m an aggressive person, not a defensive person, and I’d like to focus on Arm for now.”

Son had used the quarterly events to talk about his eclectic investment philosophies, poetically describing how technology could improve the happiness of mankind. He peppered the presentations with flying unicorns and rainbows. His passion has earned him the loyalty of investors who have held onto SoftBank stock through some of tech’s biggest downturns.

Even on Friday, Son covered many of his favorite themes. He recalled his early days as an entrepreneur in California when he first saw a picture of a microprocessor, saying it made him cry. “I couldn’t stop crying,” he said.

For his part, Goto said Son would remain firmly in charge of the company, but he said SoftBank had placed too much on the founder’s shoulders. “At SoftBank, we’ve been spoiled by Son,” Goto said. “We have to break the habit of relying on him.”

Overall for the quarter, the Japanese conglomerate posted net profit of 3.03 trillion yen last quarter, buoyed by the sale of part of its stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. The company said its total profit on the sale of Alibaba shares was 5.37 trillion yen.