IN THE 1990 S, when a younger Kid Masayoshi, a Japanese business owner, was pursuing acquisitions in his home country, he sought advice from a banker eight years his junior called Mikitani Hiroshi. They shared a lot in common: both had studied in America (Mr Son at the University of California, Berkeley, Mr Mikitani at Harvard Company School); they had a typical interest in the internet; and they were both baseball mad.
In the years since, both men have actually blazed past a stifling business hierarchy to end up being two of Japan’s leading tech billionaires. Mr Mikitani, who says in an interview that he did not even know the word “business owner” when he registered at Harvard, pioneered e-commerce in Japan through Rakuten, which is now a stretching tech corporation worth $14 bn. Mr Son’s SoftBank, after incredible investments in early internet stocks, muscled into Japan’s telecoms industry. They have both invested heavily in Silicon Valley. They also each own baseball teams named after birds of victim; the SoftBank Hawks and the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Now it is rivalry, not a shared past, that better specifies their relationship. In Japan SoftBank and Rakuten are elbowing their method onto each other’s turf. Their respective investments overseas in Uber and Lyft, two ride-hailing firms, put them at chances. Even the Hawks and the Eagles are bitter …