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NET WORTH $2.2 billion AGE 41 ADDRESS 24-1, Nihonbashi Hakozakicho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo BIO They call him the Bill Gates of Japan, and it's not always a compliment. Son's voracious investing and visible role as head of Japan's No. 1 software distributor often draw more suspicion than praise in the country's hierarchical business culture. Son made his first $1 million before graduating from the University of California, Berkeley and founded Softbank at age 23. Since then the company has served as the platform for his most profitable investments, including large stakes in Yahoo, Comdex, and Kingston Technologies. Though savvy international investing keeps Son's head above water, Softbank is the primary source of his wealth. Son dropped 13 spots on our list this year because he is riding out Japan's economic storm on the back of a company that has been slow to adopt new standards of software distribution. He may help bankroll the future, but he isn't defining it. 1998 POWER PLAY This year Son's investments have stolen the thunder from his recession-weary company. He made $400 million from the initial public offering of Softbank-held Ziff-Davis in April and sealed a deal with E*Trade to set up an online security company in Japan in June. Expect to see him put his money to work in more Internet deals in the next year. PLACE YOUR BETS The Tokyo Stock Exchange is not a place for the faint of heart right now, but analysts call Softbank a good value as long as it stays under $50. Buy low and hold.