Mark Zuckerberg is clearly the most important person at Facebook, which has launched a traveling circus this week to sell itself to the public. So why is he shrinking from the spotlight?
The social network's founder skipped his company's road-show appearance in Boston on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reports, disappointing investors hoping to touch the hem of Zuckerberg's hoodie before plunking down kajillions of dollars on his company.
"I think if you're going to take public money, you should be at public meetings," road-show attendee Lawrence Haverty, Jr., associate portfolio manager of Gabelli Global Multimedia Trust, in Weston, Mass. told the WSJ.
The disappointment is understandable: Since founding the company in his Harvard dorm room, Zuckerberg has been its public personification, for better or worse. And the company's initial public offering will leave him with a 57 percent controlling interest in Facebook, making him an unusually important CEO.
"An investment in Facebook is very much an investment in Mark Zuckerberg," Bloomberg reporter John Erlichman said last week in a video that asked the question, "Is Mark Zuckerberg Ready For Facebook IPO?" Erlichman's answer was, yes, of course Zuckerberg is ready.
After the first couple of days, the answer is maybe not so clear! After being hustled like a rock star into the midtown Manhattan Sheraton for Day One of the road show on Monday, Zuckerberg reportedly spent an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom, showing up late for a meeting that was an hour behind schedule already. He then let a musty old video do much of the speaking for him, leaving little time for questions and answers with investors.
"Many investors were annoyed and left feeling that they had learned nothing new about the company," CNBC's John Carney wrote.
The video was absent from Day Two of the road show, in Boston -- but then, so was Mark Zuckerberg.
This behavior will likely not help sway any investors who still carry with them the (likely unfair) image of Zuckerberg as a furtive misanthrope, as depicted in The Social Network.
"I can understand why the company would want to limit his exposure," Dana Cease, a senior investment analyst at John Hancock Asset Management in Boston, told the WSJ. "I would have liked to see him out there at least answering some broader questions. It would be good to have some comfort."
Zuckerberg has built Facebook, and his own reputation, by paying little heed to business conventions, and investors maybe shouldn't be surprised if he takes the same approach to the IPO road show.
But if Facebook's IPO is going to live up to its almost impossible hype, Zuckerberg might need to make himself a little more available, posits Susan Etlinger of Altimeter, a California research and advisory firm.
"As CEO, Zuckerberg needs to be accountable to his shareholders–not to a stock price per se, but to their faith in him," she wrote in a blog post.
Check out the slideshow (below) to see the biggest risks to Facebook's success, according to the company's pre-IPO filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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