Facebook founder faces shareholder revolt

I was duped on a scoop. Word had reached me, from multiple sources, that Mark Zuckerberg had sold $40 million worth of shares in Facebook's $300 million financing round. Not so, we hear: All of the $300 million Facebook raised from Microsoft and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing is in the company's bank account, not Zuckerberg's. So why the rumor?

The most likely explanation: Facebook's $15 billion valuation has sparked a round of fear and greed inside the company. Early employees, themselves large shareholders, are agitating to have Zuckerberg let them take money off the table and sell some of their shares. Exploiting the rumor mill is a way for them to gain leverage with Zuckerberg, whose 27 percent stake in the company is worth $4 billion.

Indeed, one variation of the rumor I'd heard said CTO Adam D'Angelo, cofounder Dustin Moskowitz, and vice president Matt Cohler — Zuckerberg's 20something inner circle — selling shares alongside Zuckerberg, bringing the insider-sale total to $100 million. Also not true. But telling in its detail. If Zuckerberg's braintrust is seen to be selling, then others eager to cash out can argue they should, too.

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So it seems I've been played by overeager Facebookers. Patience, young ones. Your turn will come soon enough. Facebook's employee rolls are growing so fast that it will soon cross the 500-employee mark — a milestone that, by next year, should force it to start filing financial reports like a public company. At that point, not going for an IPO would be foolish. At some point, Facebook's investors will demand an IPO. And then everyone will be able to sell.

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This isn't the first rumor I got wrong. It won't be the last. All I can promise is that when I hear something, you'll hear about it. Isn't that the point of running a gossip rag?