Although he is still alive and well, Masayoshi Son has attained legendary status in Japan. From his childhood growing up in a poverty-stricken Korean community in Kyushu to his acquisition of No. 3 U.S. mobile carrier Sprint as chief executive of SoftBank, his life is full of colorful episodes and is still unfolding.

The businessman has projected a David and Goliath image that began when SoftBank Corp. made its foray into the broadband Internet market in 2001 with the Yahoo! BB service. Boasting an amazingly cheap monthly fee at the time of just ¥2,830, Son's startup challenged rivals including giant Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. who were charging about ¥6,000 a month plus setup fees, which vaulted one's initial broadband investment into the tens of thousands yen.

Since that time, Son has repeatedly challenged his larger rivals through acquisitions, including fixed-line phone operator Japan Telecom Co. in 2004 and Vodafone K.K., the local unit of Vodafone Group PLC, in 2006. Each conquest thrust SoftBank Corp. into a new business area, helping it boost market share, lower prices and establish the solid presence it enjoys today.