When one of the most influential men of our generation says they’re giving up 99% of their immense fortune in the quest for a better world, people (justifiably) stop and take notice.
Zuckerberg made the shock announcement yesterday under the veil of a virtuous-sounding love note to his newly-born daughter, Max. The sweet words were signed on behalf of Zuckerberg and the first lady of the Facebook empire, Priscilla Chan.
“We will give 99% of our Facebook shares — currently about $45 billion — during our lives to join many others in improving this world for the next generation.”
Since the time of the announcement, the internet has been awash with words of awe at Zuckerberg’s seemingly saintly generosity. Shakira, Melinda Gates and Arianna Huffington were among the famous names who commented on the Zuckerberg’s note, sending their admiration and indulging in a bizarre billionaires’ love-in.
But at the risk of sounding like a grumpy cynic, maybe we should all just calm down a tad and actually look at Zuckerberg’s actions for what they are: him shuffling his obscene fortune around a bit.
The recipient of Facebook’s shares won’t be a charitable body, but rather a limited liability company owned by… well, Zuckerberg himself. He has created a foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, LLC, in which he will control all the shares and allocations of those shares.
“The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will pursue its mission by funding non-profit organizations, making private investments and participating in policy debates, in each case with the goal of generating positive impact in areas of great need”
-Facebook SEC Filing
Although the initiative has lots of big plans, a spokesperson has confirmed to Buzzfeed that as an LLC, they’re pretty much free to do whatever the hell they like. So Zuckerberg’s shares are going to Zuckerberg, to do with what Zuckerberg pleases, over the course of Zuckerberg’s lifetime – I’m seeing a pattern here. And of course, he will remain the big boss of Facebook too.
Even if the Facebook family were to give away 99% of their Facebook fortune tomorrow, according to my very shoddy maths calculations that would still leave them with $450 million in the bank. They wouldn’t exactly be struggling to buy little Max’s nappies.
So essentially everything will stay the same, but his business will aim to do more good in the world. Which is all well and good, but shouldn’t you be doing that anyway, Mr Facebook?
Let’s save our words of gratitude for the true social activists in this world: the ones that don’t need a $45 billion fortune behind them before they make a positive contribution to this planet.