Yusaku Maezawa (42) is a Japanese billionaire entrepreneur and art collector. He founded Start Today in 1998 and launched the online fashion retail website Zozotown, now Japan’s largest, in 2004. Most recently, Maezawa introduced a custom-fit apparel brand ZOZO and at-home measurement system.
He went to school at Waseda Jitsugyo High in 1991, where he started up a band with his classmates called Switch Style. The band released their first EP in 1993. After graduating from high school, he decided not to go to college; instead, he moved to the US with a girlfriend, where he started collecting CDs and records. When he returned to Japan in 1995, his album collection became the basis for his first company, which sold imported albums and CDs through the mail.
In 1998, Maezawa used the basis of the mail-order album business to launch the company Start Today. The same year, his band signed with the label BMG Japan. By 2000, Start Today had moved to an online platform, had begun selling clothing, and had become a public company. In 2001, Maezawa declared a hiatus on his music career. Start Today opened the retail clothing website Zozotown in 2004, and six years later, Start Today became a publicly traded company, listed on the “Mothers” Index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. By 2012, Start Today was listed in the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Prior to launching his company, Maezawa was a drummer for a hardcore punk band signed with a major label. He had another passion, however: collecting imported punk and hardcore records and CDs, a hobby that turned into a mail-order catalogue business that was incorporated into Start Today in 1998. The firm went online in 2000 and began offering niche fashion apparel in addition to music before opening the shopping website Zozotown in 2004.
Today the site features about 6,800 brands with over 650,000 items, and the company, which began with just four staff members, now employs nearly 1,000. With a market capitalization of about ¥1.03 trillion and annual sales topping ¥98 billion in the fiscal year ended March 31, Maezawa, who owns about 38 per cent of Start Today’s shares, is Japan’s 18th-richest man, according to Forbes.
Prior to launching his company, Maezawa was a drummer for a hardcore punk band signed with a major label. He had another passion, however: collecting imported punk and hardcore records and CD’s
Much like Horie once was, Maezawa is his generation’s corporate enfant terrible — an anomaly in the nation’s conservative business climate that prefers low-key executives who shun the spotlight.
He is active on social media, where he shares glimpses of his lavish lifestyle, and the father of three children from past relationships is a regular on entertainment news, most recently for dating popular actress Ayame Goriki. He also owns a private jet and is known as an avid wine collector, owning thousands of bottles.
Unlike many startups, which often opt to headquarter their companies in Tokyo, Start Today’s main office has remained in Chiba Prefecture, where Maezawa was born and raised. Maezawa bought the naming rights to the home of the Chiba Lotte Marines baseball team in 2016, renaming the ballpark Zozo Marine Stadium.
He made headlines in July by declaring his desire to own a baseball team, a move that would put him alongside other team owning tech giants such as Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group Corp. and Hiroshi Mikitani’s Rakuten Inc.
But perhaps Maezawa is best known for his love of art. Last year he broke the auction record for a U.S. artist by splurging $110.5 million on a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat at Sotheby’s. That followed a $57.3 million purchase of another Basquiat piece at Christie’s in 2016. He plans to open a museum in Chiba where he can showcase his vast collection of art, furniture and antiques. Maezawa is also a visionary of sorts, preaching world peace and universal basic income. In an essay he shared last month, he laid out his dream of seeing a world devoid of money, a radical change he believes will alter people’s attitudes toward work and relationships for the better.
Maezawa is the founder of the Tokyo-based Contemporary Art Foundation, which he started in 2012 with a goal of “supporting young artists as a pillar of the next generation of contemporary art.” The Contemporary Art Foundation currently hosts collection shows twice a year. In May 2016 Maezawa attracted significant media attention with a record purchase price at auction of $57.3 million for an untitled work by Jean-Michel Basquiat and broke a record again in May 2017 with a $110.5 million auction for a piece by the same artist. At the same 2016 auction, Maezawa bought pieces by Bruce Nauman, Alexander Calder, Richard Prince, and Jeff Koons, spending a total of $98 million over two days. Maezawa plans to open a contemporary art museum in Chiba, which will house his collection.
In September 2018, it was announced that Maezawa would be the first commercial passenger to attempt a flyby around the Moon. He will fly onboard the SpaceX BFR rocket, which is currently in development
In an interview with The Japan Times in March, Maezawa said he intends to make his company one of the world’s leading apparel retailers. To that end, Start Today has been opening overseas offices and promoting the Zozosuit, a skin-tight garment that can capture 15,000 precise body measurements.
Linked via Bluetooth to a special app, the data from the suit’s sensors allows shoppers to find the best fit from the thousands of brands offered on the Zozotown website, as well as purchase made-to-order clothing from Zozo, the company’s private brand. Start Today will be renamed Zozo Inc. from October. “I think there’s a chance for us to become the No. 1 apparel company in the world,” he said in the interview.
One question that many people following SpaceX’s big lunar mission announcement are wondering is just what is the net worth of the first private citizen passenger, Yusaku Maezawa. Elon Musk said during the press conference that Maezawa put down a “significant deposit” for a chance to go on the trip, and this will help pay for the development of the BFR. Here is what we know about Yusaku Maezawa’s net worth.
In September 2018, it was announced that Maezawa would be the first commercial passenger to attempt a flyby around the Moon. He will fly onboard the SpaceX BFR rocket, which is currently in development. The flight is slated to take place no earlier than 2023 with a duration of nearly six days. He will take six to eight artists with him as a part of an art project he has created called #dearMoon