Tokyo billionaire Masayoshi Son has been Sprint’s chairman and controlling stockholder for two years. And, until last week, he has stayed out of sight in the company’s hometown.
Son granted The Star his first local interview between strategy sessions at the company’s Overland Park campus.
He acknowledged earlier comments to Wall Street analysts that he’d lost confidence in Sprint’s turnaround. Son, however, told The Star that he did not lose confidence in his handpicked CEO at Sprint, Marcelo Claure.
“Marcelo is the best partner to make this turnaround,” Son said. “He’s a street fighter. He fights from the underdog situation his whole life.”
It’s just how Son sees himself. Both men are self-made billionaires thanks to the companies they started and built.
Son’s company, SoftBank Group Corp. in Tokyo, paid $21.6 billion to gain control of Sprint in 2013. Son’s plan had been to merge Sprint with T-Mobile, making a larger rival to take on industry giants Verizon and AT&T.
Regulators shot down that idea, and Son’s confidence with it.
“I totally believed the merger would be approved because it makes so much sense in my view,” he said.
Son said he rediscovered his confidence in Sprint’s future only in the last few months. It returned after long strategy sessions on how to improve the company’s network that Son said he led.
He’s counting on Claure to carry out the plan to make Sprint’s network the industry’s best. And Claure faces the job of cutting Sprint’s costs to make the company more efficient.
More important, Son said, Claure’s job is to bring in enough customers to give Sprint the scale it needs to compete on its own.
“Marcelo has a strong ability and passion to sell to the customers,” Son said. “Marcelo is the guy.”