After a year during which he didn’t let go of any Facebook stock, Mark Zuckerberg is back to his selling ways.
Since November 9, 2020, the Facebook cofounder and CEO, who is worth $127 billion, has unloaded shares nearly every business day, according to filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Overall, he’s sold 9.4 million shares, worth $2.8 billion, over the past eight months through Wednesday. About 90% of the sales were made by his philanthropic and advocacy organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI). A smaller portion—roughly $200 million after taxes, per Forbes’ estimates—went into his own pockets. Zuckerberg, who is the world’s fifth richest person, has now winnowed his stake in Facebook to about 14%, down from 28% at the time of the company’s IPO.
Since Facebook went public in May 2012, Zuckerberg and CZI have sold more than 132 million shares of the social media giant, worth nearly $15 billion in total. Of that, he has personally pocketed around $2.1 billion after taxes, Forbes estimates. Zuckerberg began consistently selling Facebook stock in 2016, the year after he and his wife Priscilla Chan established CZI. At the time, the couple penned a letter to their unborn daughter, pledging to give 99% of their Facebook shares over their lifetimes toward areas such as education and curing diseases; the shares were worth $45 billion then. Zuckerberg and CZI’s sales reached a peak in 2018, when they offloaded $5.3 billion worth of shares—the vast majority through CZI.
But Zuckerberg ceased selling in November 2019, only making a single donation through CZI of 204,700 shares worth $60 million last year to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), a Mountain View, California-based nonprofit that among other things operates charitable donor-advised funds. As of 2018, Zuckerberg and Chan had donated nearly $2 billion worth of Facebook shares to SVCF.
A spokesperson for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative did not explain why Zuckerberg stopped and then resumed selling one year later, but said that his sales are conducted through pre-determined plans filed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. These plans, known as 10b5-1 plans, allow corporate officers to sell stock at regular intervals and are fairly common among executives with large stock positions in companies.
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Despite a tumultuous couple of years, which has seen Facebook come under fire for allowing data harvesting of its users, proliferating misinformation on the platform and hate speech—which led to an advertising boycott by more than 1,000 companies—the company’s stock has continued to soar. After a federal court tossed out two antitrust lawsuits filed by the Federal Trade Commission against the tech giant on June 28, shares in the Menlo Park, California firm closed at a record high of $355.64. Facebook stock has since continued to trade at similar levels; its current share price is up more than 800% compared to when it went public nine years ago, when Zuckerberg was worth $16.9 billion. In particular, the stock has been on a tear since March 2020, more than doubling in value over the past 17 months.
The vast majority of Zuckerberg’s Facebook share sales—an estimated $11 billion—have been made by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, primarily through CZI Holdings, a limited liability company, or CZI Foundation, the initiative’s nonprofit grantmaking arm. CZI has awarded $2.9 billion in grants and invested $150 million into for-profit ventures since 2015, according to its website. (The rest of the proceeds are likely invested elsewhere by CZI as well as being used to fund the organization, which has more than 200 employees.) In 2016, Priscilla Chan announced that CZI would spend $3 billion over a decade in an attempt to cure all diseases. “We believe we can cure, prevent or manage all disease within our children’s lifetime,” Chan said at the time. “It doesn’t mean that no one will get sick, but they should get sick a lot less.” It’s unclear how much progress CZI has made toward this ambitious goal.
Late last year, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Advocacy—CZI’s political advocacy arm—sold all 103,000 of the remaining Facebook shares it held. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, CZI Advocacy has contributed $17.8 million to left-leaning ballot initiatives, mostly in California, since 2018.
Zuckerberg’s stock sales over time are common among founders who took their companies public, and similar to those of his fellow tech moguls. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos decreased his stake to 24% from 42% in the first nine years after IPO—selling about $500 million worth of shares—while Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin trimmed their stakes to about 7% from 16% in the same amount of time.
Relatively speaking, though, Zuckerberg has sold far less Facebook stock (in dollar terms) than Bezos has sold of Amazon in total. Since Amazon went public in 1997, Forbes calculated that Bezos has sold nearly $27 billion worth of Amazon shares (before taxes). Of that amount he sold $10 billion last year. That makes Zuckerberg’s $2 billion worth of sales look paltry. Today, Bezos’ Amazon stake stands at 10% after he notably relinquished a quarter of his then 16% stake in 2019 to ex-wife MacKenzie Scott as part of the most expensive divorce in history. Still, the former Amazon CEO, who stepped down from the position earlier this month, is the richest person in the world.
Some 98% of Zuckerberg’s estimated $127 billion fortune still lies in his Facebook stock. The remainder comes from stock sales, as well as a real estate portfolio that’s worth an estimated $200 million and includes properties in Palo Alto, California, Hawaii and Lake Tahoe. Zuckerberg spent more than $100 million in 2014 to purchase 700 acres of land on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, then added another 600 acres this May for $53 million, according to a report from Mansion Global.