As the much-ballyhooed Facebook IPO approaches, there’s a mountain being made out of a molehill. Turns out 27-year-old founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg may have a $2 billion tax bill that, according to a variety of sources, he intends to pay in full.
He seems like a regular guy…or is he?
To say I’m skeptical of his intentions would be an insult to actual skeptics. I think Zuckerberg is a great guy, but a regular guy? No way. He didn’t build from scratch a business that has 845 million customers by being a regular guy.
Zuckerberg goes to great lengths to project an “aw-shucks” kind of image. But this move is about as down to earth as Kim Kardashian’s wedding. It’s every bit as sophisticated a play as I would have expected from Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Larry Page or the late Steve Jobs of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).
The CEO (and presumably his advisers) know that the stakes couldn’t be higher than they are right now, which is why Zuckerberg wants to pay this tax bill in full to reinforce the illusion that Facebook is part of Middle America — not something built on its back. He knows that doing so will help him monetize your information when Facebook goes public.
I say this because it’s important to remember that the only reason Facebook is worth anything is because users — people like you — have voluntarily, with no compensation whatsoever, assembled the greatest single collection of marketing data in recorded history. That’s right — your data, given freely, is going to make Zuckerberg rich. Where are all the privacy advocates now?
I’d love to see what Facebook’s proposed valuation would be if 845 million people suddenly decided they really don’t want to share their most intimate moments with hundreds or thousands of “friends” or decide they don’t really want to “like” anything. Why hasn’t the Occupy Wall Street crowd or the “tax the rich” bunch latched on to this? Many of them are probably too busy updating their Facebook status to pay attention.