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Facebook's Zuckerberg can name successor from beyond the grave

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One of the most interesting things about Facebook filing its $5bn initial public offering (IPO) is that it finally provides some hard evidence into the company's success and operating strategies, having for so long been a private company with closed books.

Mostly notably, the firm is already making some strong returns on its advertising model, with revenues up to $3.7bn for 2011, an increase of $1.7bn from 2010, showing the company's advertising-led model is paying off.

However, it is not just advertising that is driving this income, with the firm revealing in the filing that Zynga was responsible for 12 per cent of this income, as Facebook takes a cut of any purchases made by users in the games that run on the site.

Away from the financial figures, the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), also highlights some of the ways in which the company is setting itself up to deal with having to appease Joe Public once they get their greasy mitts on shares in the firm.

The most interesting of the caveats Facebook has placed within its IPO relates Mark Zuckerberg's right to appoint the company's successor in the event of his death.

"In the event that Mr. Zuckerberg controls our company at the time of his death, control may be transferred to a person or entity that he designates as his successor," the filing notes.

However, Zuckerberg clearly has no intention of handing control over any time soon as he's made sure that the share structure of the company works in his favour.

Each share of the 28.4 per cent stake he controls in the firm has a 10 times greater power than normal shares on any issues shareholders vote on, ensuring he retains overall control of the firm.

"[This] provides Zuckerberg with the ability to control the outcome of matters requiring stockholder approval, even if he owns significantly less than a majority of the shares, [...] including the election of directors and significant corporate transactions, such as a merger or other sale of our company or its assets," it reads.

Zuckerberg has also committed to only draw a salary of $1 a year from 1 January, 2013, similar to Steve Jobs during his time at Apple. He probably expects to eek out a living via bonus schemes and share grants.

The firm will also likely be forced to start providing regular updates on the number of active users on the site, which has now been revealed as 845 million, so it may even be the case it can tout one billion members in the run up the firm going public in May.

No doubt that will send already rabid investors into a full-blown frenzy. All this from its inception in a dorm room in Harvard. Amazing.

02 Feb 2012

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