Yesterday was the day that financial performance artist and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son stood in front of his investors and answered their most profound question: "What the fuck just happened with WeWork?"
And as befits the man himself, Masa Son did not just address this query directly, he made it into high art. In a slide deck that has been widely circulated and unfairly mocked by media outlets untrained in the ways of financial satire, Son laid out his case of what just happened to him and how he plans to fix it. The slides were honest, oddly designed, and simplistic in a way that only Masa Son can be.
At the risk of doing what so many other sites are doing, we'll admit to being tickled by slides like this one:
That does say it all without saying almost anything, and the stormy seas are a delectable little touch.
This is also a pretty punchy little number to share with your shareholders:
But, hey, at least it's being made clear that they all now own way more of it:
And these are also quite solid:
We bet many of you are looking at these two slides and wondering how you wasted so many hours in an MBA-level microecon course, when really all you ever needed was these two slides and the multitudes of knowledge contained therein.
This slide, in particular, has gotten some niche viral love as a good literal illustration of what fueled the WeWork disaster:
And, yes, this is a very funny slide that feels almost aquatic, like a debt-ridden dolphin breaking through up and through waves of financial shame. That said, it's not even close to the best slide. It is not Masa Son's true, evocative masterpiece.
The real triumph here, the true moment of transcendent genius that fully subsumes everything about Masa Son and his intention as an artist/investor is this seemingly simple one hiding in plain sight:
This is it. This is the one. This is Masa Son's "Les demoiselles d'Avignon," a seeminlgy simplistic reinterpretation of accepted forms that is really a subversive treatise on the future.
Look at it closely. The whole piece is structured around the artist's contention that hypothetical profits extend upwards forever "(after improvement)." Nothing more is said about what that "Improvement" actually entails, nor is the artist inviting the viewer into the phenomenological dialectic of what it means to change for the better, or what "Profits" even really are. All Son offers his audience are the concepts of "Amount" and "Time." It's as if the artist is saying that the ephemeral esoterica of life's reality make any cogent understanding of "Value" absurd on its face. If you believe in time, and you believe in money, then why - Masa is clearly asking - can you not believe that something he once made everyone believe was worth $47 billion because he gave it $19 billion and is now worth $7 billion will someday be worth $Infinty billion?
This slide is not just about WeWork, it's about SoftBank, and it's very much about Masa Son himself. But if you step back and see the piece with honest eyes, you will see its deeper truth. This slide is about all of us.