If there is one person who holds the key to the future of the American Internet also-ran, it may be Mr. Son, the 53-year-old billionaire founder of Softbank.
While Mr. Son is little known in the United States, Softbank owns big chunks of Yahoo's most valuable investment stakes: Yahoo Japan and the Alibaba Group, one of China's largest Internet companies. Combined, analysts estimate, those assets, along with Yahoo's cash, represent more than half of Yahoo's $22 billion value.
With all the speculation about Yahoo's future — Will it be broken up? Will it be taken private? Will it merge with AOL? — virtually every situation contemplated begins and ends with Yahoo selling its Asian crown jewels. And that is where Mr. Son comes in, perhaps on either side of a deal.