- Ron Fisher is the Vice Chairman and Head of Investment at SoftBank Group where he oversees the organisation’s $US100 billion Vision Fund.
- Fisher led SoftBank’s multiple investments in WeWork, and is part of the startup’s all-male board of directors hoping to remove WeWork cofounder and CEO Adam Neumann ahead of its delayed IPO. SoftBank was reportedly leading the effort to remove Neumann.
- SoftBank, and Fisher by extension, is widely credited with overinflating WeWork’s valuation in later stage private funding rounds. At its peak, WeWork was privately valued at $US47 billion but has received scepticism from public investors ahead of a planned IPO as early as October.
- Earlier this month, the startup announced it was delaying its public offering, which was reported to potentially value the company at a heavily discounted $US10 billion, indefinitely.
It’s not clear if Ron Fisher’s billion-dollar gamble will pay off.
The SoftBank executive sits on WeWork’s all-male board, having led the Vision Fund’s multiple investments in the startup since 2017. As the Vice Chairman and Head of Investment at SoftBank Group, Fisher, 71, is one of the most senior employees overseeing SoftBank’s first $US100 billion Vision Fund, and the firm’s WeWork investment could very well be his legacy.
On Monday, Fisher was reportedly at the centre of the board’s efforts to oust WeWork CEO Adam Neumann, the eccentric cofounder that many investors deemed a “visionary.” It is not clear what Neumann’s revised role could be, and whether or not he will allow Fisher and the board to follow through on threats to upend the management team.
SoftBank, and Fisher by extension, is widely credited with overinflating WeWork’s valuation in later stage private funding rounds. SoftBank first became publicly involved with the New York-based coworking startup in August 2017 after it purchased $US1.3 billion worth of shares from a group of undisclosed existing investors. At the time, WeWork was valued at $US16.9 billion. That same month, SoftBank led the startup’s $US1.7 billion Series G, which valued it at $US21.2 billion. At its peak, WeWork was privately valued at $US47 billion after a $US5 billion direct investment from SoftBank.
Now, Fisher’s investment looks precarious, at best. After pouring billions in private funding into WeWork, the buzzy startup has decided to delay its public offering originally planned for the end of September. Once valued at $US47 billion, the startup is now reportedly considering listing at a significantly discounted valuation of around $US10 billion.
Here is what we know about Fisher, the SoftBank executive who led Vision Fund’s controversial investment in WeWork.
According to WeWork’s IPO prospectus, Ron Fisher is one of six WeWork board members.
Fisher is also the Vice Chairman of telecommunications company Sprint, which is owned by SoftBank. And he is a director at chip design firm Arm Holdings and sports e-commerce site Fanatics, both SoftBank investments.
Fisher says when SoftBank created the $US100 billion Vision Fund with SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, it wasn’t clear whether there would be enough opportunities.
“Early on, as the idea for the Vision Fund developed, there was a question as to whether we’d find enough companies and founders of the quality and scale we were after,” Fisher said in an interview posted on SoftBank’s website.
“What we’ve found is that there are more interesting opportunities than even a fund like ours can possibly support. Our objective is to partner with companies that are transforming industries across the globe, where our resources and people will make a difference for them,” he says.
Fisher received his bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.
In an essay for Thrive Global, Fisher said he grew up in a fairly observant Jewish household in South Africa.
Even with his board commitments, Fisher says he does a “digital detox” for 25 hours each week during Shabbat. The Jewish day of rest is observed from sundown Friday through Saturday.
Fisher said in an essay for Thrive Global that Son asked him if texts “counted” during Shabbat, but Son came to understand and respect Fisher’s decision.
Fisher credits his ability to work long hours during the week to his weekend “digital detox,” where he catches up on issues of business magazine “The Economist.”
After graduating from college in South Africa, Fisher moved to New York to get his MBA from Columbia University.
He joined TRW, a high-tech parts manufacturer, in 1976, and eventually became the chief financial officer at the company. He left the position in 1990, and TRW was acquired in 2002.
From 1984 until 1990, Fisher was also the president of Interactive Systems Corporation, a UNIX software company based in Santa Monica, Calif. The company was acquired in 1992 by Kodak.
In 1990, Fisher was recruited to lead Phoenix Technologies, a system software developer for personal computers, as Chairman and CEO. He ran the company until 1994, prior to joining SoftBank.
Ron Fisher joined SoftBank in 1995 to oversee its operations and activities outside of Asia.
He founded SoftBank Capital, the now-dormant investment arm of SoftBank Group, in 1999. He served as managing partner until the group was dissolved in 2015.
He now serves as Vice Chairman and Head of Investment of SoftBank Group, which makes him one of the senior-most executives on the company’s $US100 billion Vision Fund.
His biggest investment during his tenure is WeWork, the fast-growing but troubled coworking startup.
He led SoftBank’s massive $US1.7 billion Series G investment in WeWork in 2017 and a subsequent $US5 billion direct investment in 2019.
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