One Small Step for a Flashy Japanese Billionaire, One Giant Leap for SpaceX – Wall Street Journal

Elon Musk’s SpaceX will fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon.


Photo:

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

TOKYO—The first paying passenger for Elon Musk’s SpaceX is the head of Japan’s biggest online shopping mall and is known for his flashy personal life.

Yusaku Maezawa, a 42-year-old e-commerce mogul and art collector, used social media on Tuesday local time to flaunt his plan to travel on Mr. Musk’s vehicle on a journey around the moon. “I choose to go to the moon, with Artists,” he tweeted.

Mr. Maezawa said he is inviting six to eight artists to join his trip to space in 2023—the project he named “#dearMoon.”

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From the Archives

Billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX said it plans to take tourists on a trip around the moon in as little as two years, after it starts ferrying NASA astronauts to the international space station. Photo: SpaceX/EPA (Originally published Feb. 28, 2017)

“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon,” he said at an event with Mr. Musk. “It’s always there and has continued to inspire humanity.”

Last year, Mr. Maezawa paid $110.5 million for a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting of a black skull. He previously spent $57.3 million for a larger, untitled Basquiat that featured a devil and $22.6 million for a rainbow-colored Pablo Picasso portrait, “Head of a Woman (Dora Maar).”

Mr. Maezawa founded

Start Today
Co.

3092 -1.83%

in 1998 as a seller of imported records and CDs. He started the online fashion-retail website Zozotown in 2004 and it has taken off in recent years among Japanese clothes buyers because it offers a variety of brands on a single site.

Start Today is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and has a market capitalization of about ¥1 trillion ($8.94 billion) as of Tuesday trading.

Recently, Zozotown has caught the attention of investors by introducing Zozosuit, a suit that takes precise measurements of customers’ entire body to allow them to order the correct size on the website. The company plans to distribute 10 million suits free of charge within the year.

Although Mr. Maezawa said his planned trip around the moon was a “personal activity,” it is his strategy to use his private activities to open doors for his business.

“People don’t recognize me when I say ‘I’m Maezawa from Start Today’ but they know Maezawa who has bought Basquiat,” Mr. Maezawa said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal after he made the purchase in May 2017. “I get to meet people that I might not have met in the fashion business in the world of art.”

I choose to go to the moon, with Artists.

—Yusaku Maezawa

He said in the 2017 interview he hoped his art purchases would be a catalyst for his company to gain ground abroad. Mr. Maezawa has said he aims to increase his company’s market capitalization to ¥5 trillion within the next 10 years and bring in 80% of its revenue from outside Japan by that time.

The company recently started selling clothes under its own brand, Zozo, abroad and projects ¥2 billion in sales for the brand outside Japan in the year ending March 2019.

Mr. Maezawa’s private life also drew attention recently when he started dating Japanese actress Ayame Goriki, the latest in a string of celebrity companions for the fashion executive. The new couple put a video of themselves on Instagram and Ms. Goriki advertised her love for Zozotown on her Instagram account.

Write to Megumi Fujikawa at megumi.fujikawa@wsj.com