Masa, $99 Billion and a SPAC. A Match Made Off Wall Street

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Peter Thiel and Masayoshi Son. Not two names I’d expect to put in the same sentence, but let’s look back at this year and throw away all expectations.

The billionaire and the technologist — you decide which is which — may join forces to take PT Tokopedia public through a blank-check company. Thiel and Hong Kong scion Richard Li are backers of Bridgetown Holdings Ltd. There’s no reason you’d have heard of Bridgetown except for its connection with Thiel, because it doesn’t do anything beyond occupying a slot on the Nasdaq while waiting for a target to conduct a backdoor listing. 

Son and his $98.6 billion Vision Fund (he never quite reached that magical 100) are investors in Tokopedia, an Indonesia e-commerce company. Li has a stake in both. According to Bloomberg’s Manuel Baigorri, Bridgetown and Tokopedia are in talks to merge, which would value the startup at as much as $10 billion. 

Special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, are right up Son’s alley. They’re so hip and quirky that they even made it onto the Bloomberg 50, alongside Billie Eilish, Bong Joon-ho and Anthony Fauci. Creating one has been on his radar, with Vision Fund chief Rajeev Misra saying back in October that plans for such a vehicle were afoot. However, we haven’t heard much since then. 

Having one of his unicorns list in the U.S. without having to go through the rigmarole of bankers and roadshows and initial public offerings would be a delightful way for Son to end 2020. Jumping into bed with Thiel and Li couldn’t hurt as he seeks more investors in his latest fund, and he’d be keen to show naysayers some payoff on bets into Southeast Asia’s burgeoning e-commerce market. 

After all, it hasn’t been a great year for Son. Think back before the fog of Covid-19 to last year, when his investment in The We Co. — WeWork — came crashing down. He’s had few winners to offset that disaster since then, and has even turned to trackside betting — also known as playing the options market — to pad out his earnings statement. A reported plan to conduct a slow-burn buyout through share buybacks has been the latest scheme spurring the stock to new heights.

So, yeah, a SPAC exit for Tokopedia seems like the most 2020 thing he could do.

Happy New Year, Masa.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Tim Culpan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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