A convicted fraudster who claims to own at least half of Facebook has said that he would settle for half of the company, not the 84 per cent he originally demanded.
Paul Ceglia began a legal battle against Facebook last year, claiming that he hired Mark Zuckerberg, who is now chief executive of Facebook, to work on a project called thefacebook.
Ceglia said that he has found a contract, signed by Zuckerberg, promising him half of the company, and has now released a number of emails to back up his case.
The emails purport to show that Zuckerberg and Ceglia were in constant contact in 2003 as the site was being developed, and refer to two Harvard upperclassmen, presumably the Winklevoss twins, who had a similar project. Zuckerberg apparently says in the emails that he is stalling them.
Zuckerberg then accepts more money from Ceglia, according to the emails, and the two agree a 50:50 split.
However, within months, Zuckerberg apparently said that he wanted to shut the site down as it was generating very little interest. If the timing is correct this would be just as Facebook was taking off.
Zuckerberg appears to have sent Ceglia an email in July 2004 offering to repay $2,000 and end the partnership. One week later Facebook is incorporated.
If these emails and the contract Ceglia claims to have, along with a witness to prove its veracity, turn out to be real Facebook could be paying out very large sums indeed.
The company paid the Winklevoss twins $65m based on a no-contract claim, so Ceglia could become a very rich man.
Facebook told V3.co.uk that the company is looking forward to defending the case in court.
Ceglia's new lawyers, DLA Piper, stated that they have checked his evidence exhaustively and are happy with its authenticity. DLA Piper is a major law firm in the sector and would have taken this seriously and done its homework.
But there are still questions, principally why Ceglia waited so long before notifying anyone of the claims. The statute of limitations is close to running out, and there is something about that delay that raises doubts.
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