September 18, 2018 7:58 am
Updated: September 18, 2018 7:59 am

Who is Yusaku Maezawa, SpaceX’s first billionaire moon passenger?

WATCH ABOVE: Elon Musk announced Monday that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa would be SpaceX's first private passenger to the moon.

A A

The Japanese billionaire who Tesla chief Elon Musk says plans to blast off on the first-ever private commercial space trip aboard the SpaceX Big Falcon Rocket often makes headlines in Japan.

READ MORE: SpaceX’s first private passenger to the moon will be Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa

The SpaceX mission, set for takeoff in 2023, is just the latest exploit in tycoon Yusaku Maezawa‘s colorful and ambitious career.

Fashion brand

Maezawa, 42, is the chief executive of Start Today Co., which he founded in 1998 as a CD sales business when he was still in his 20s.

WATCH BELOW: Is the SpaceX Dragon capsule ready for liftoff?


Story continues below

The company pioneered e-commerce in Japan and now runs the popular fashion mall Zozotown, selling various, relatively affordable clothing brands. Annual sales totalled more than 98 billion yen ($890 million) in the fiscal year that ended in March.

The money

Forbes magazine estimates Maezawa’s wealth at $2.9 billion. In a nation where billionaires are relatively rare, he gets attention for his celebrity friends and for zipping around in a private jet and a fleet of sports cars. Such flamboyance is uncommon in a country where even very rich men often keep a low profile.

Musical beginnings

Maezawa’s trademark defiant but disarming style may be rooted in his start as a musician, playing drums in indies rock bands. The punk band he was in, called Switch Style, signed with a major Japanese record label. He opted out of attending prestigious Waseda University in Tokyo to pursue music and then started his own business selling imported CDs.

WATCH BELOW: NASA assigns astronauts to SpaceX and Boeing test flights

The name of his company was inspired by the title of an album by the American punk band Gorilla Biscuits.

Art collection

Maezawa has invested lavishly in art, collecting works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, among others, and in designer-brand furniture from abroad.

He paid $110.5 million for Basquiat’s 1982 painting of a graffiti-like black and blue rendition of a human skull, a record price for an American artist, at a Sotheby’s auction last year.

“When I saw this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art,” Maezawa said at the time.

He had set the previous auction record for a Basquiat, in 2016, when he paid $57.3 million.

The suit

Maezawa has recently shown off a wearable technology called the Zozosuit, the centerpiece of his Zozo fashion brand.

Yusaku Maezawa, chief executive of Start Today Co., is shown speaking at a press conference in Tokyo on July 3, 2018.

Kyodo News via AP

Customers first order a black, body-hugging outfit covered with white dots. They then take a smartphone photo wearing the outfit which is used to do a full body scan, determining shapes and sizes with a special app. Choices are still limited to basic pants and shirts for now, but that could change.

Space trip

Maezawa says the planned trip to space is a way “to inspire the dreamer in all of us.” He plans to take six or eight artists, architects and designers with him.

He hasn’t said who those artists might be or how much he is paying for the trip. The idea is for those creative minds to see the moon up close and planet Earth from afar.

Maezawa says he has often wondered what Basquiat might have drawn if he had travelled into space. “I choose to go to the moon, with artists,” Maezawa tweeted both in Japanese and English.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

Report an error

Comments

Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.