Thursday, 4 May 2017

Mark Zuckerberg and His $60 Billion Fortune: How the Frugal Facebook CEO Is Really Spending His Money

Mark Zuckerberg
By now, everyone knows Mark Zuckerberg's origin story. If you don't, watch The Social Network immediately. It's worth your time, if for nothing other than Trent Reznor's dark, brooding soundtrack and Jesse Eisenberg's pithy one-liners.

If committing to 120 minutes is too much here's the short version: Guy goes to Harvard, guy invents Facebook, guy becomes crazy rich and is sued by three different classmates, guy holds IPO and is suddenly a billionaire.
The truth is, though, that Zuckerberg isn't just a billionaire: He's worth over $60 billion, according to Forbes. He's the fourth-richest person in America, falling short of only Bill GatesJeff Bezos and Warren Buffett, and is one of the 10 richest people in the world. Yet for all those gobs and gobs of money (we imagine the bags of his cold, hard cash could fill several rooms), his lifestyle is anything but lavish—Mark Zuckerberg is not your average tech CEO. But first, just because it's fun, a few words about his wealth. 
When Zuckerberg first began his duties as the head of Facebook (the company as we know it now), he was renting a modest home near the offices in Palo Alto, and he stayed for much longer than anybody expected he would. Finally, after what we imagine to be much prodding from his investment advisers—and surely friends wondering why they weren't being invited to dinner parties at a giant mansion—Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, upgraded to a $7 million, 5,000-square-foot dwelling nearby, complete with a beautifully landscaped backyard and swimming pool.
Zuckerberg also spent $30 million buying up all the neighborhood's surrounding property, but despite the rumors that he was looking to create a hermit-like compound that may or may not be surrounded by a moat or giant wall, it appears it was just to prevent a developer from selling off the houses to would-be peeping Tom's.
In addition to the Palo Alto expanse, the CEO owns a whopping 700 acres on the island of Kauai, which at the time of purchase included a sugarcane factory, an organic farm and of course a private beach. In other words, it's shaping up to be one badass vacation spot. 
All that sounds great, and most of us would trade our own lifestyles in a heartbeat. But one has to admit that, in comparison to most millionaires and billionaires of the world, Zuckerberg seems to live a pretty and frugal life. He's not still holed up in his college dorm room, eating Ramen noodles and drinking light beer as he hammers away code on an aging laptop, but it doesn't come close to how most of Silicon Valley spends their money.
There's the fact that he wears the same T-shirt-and-hoodie combo every single day. There's the fact that he drives a Volkswagen. There's the fact that he and Priscilla were caught eating McDonald's while on their honeymoon in Italy. And outside of that vacation, they don't travel excessively—they take two weeks over the holidays to go on vacation, but more often than not they choose to simply visit Chan's family back in China.
Oh, and as CEO of Facebook, he pays himself only $1 per year. 
The best way to describe Zuckerberg's current lifestyle is altruistic. Most of that can probably be credited to his wife, who is a pediatrician and one half (arguably the most important half) of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Together they've pledged 99% of their Facebook shares (that means 99% of their wealth) to the organization, which focuses on "promoting equality" and "advancing human potential" and has so far done everything from helping to train developers in east African countries and launching a program to cure childhood disease.
Zuckerberg is always quick to talk about his work on the Initiative or to share live developments on his Facebook page—like his wife's pregnancies or his daughter's first steps—but he doesn't live an outwardly public life—he doesn't hit the Hollywood party circuit or the hotspots in New York, and he's rarely snapped by the paparazzi. And what he does choose to share with the world is carefully selected and part of an even more carefully crafted message. 
So what does that all mean? Why would a man who became a billionaire at such a young age not want to spend his money lavishly? Why would a recent college graduate, thrust into the limelight of Silicon Valley and suddenly transformed into a celebrity of the tech industry not want to live it up? The official story from Team Zuckerberg is that it's just his reserved personality and lack of affinity for grandeur, but we have another idea.
We think he could be running for President.
The idea that Zuck, as he's so affectionately referred to by his coworkers and the Facebook community at large, is not new, but the rumor is also relatively recent when considered in the context of Facebook's history. Word began circulating that he may be considering higher office earlier this year when he started giving a few seemingly strategically-timed speeches and making a few strategically-timed appearances. Zuckerberg has consistently denied any such political inclinations, but we also know that denial is always the first step to running for office. And there are just too many signs to ignore. 
First of all, there's the thriftiness that occasionally borders on piety. It's fabulous that he's so altruistic; the world needs more billionaires who realize that they'll never be able to spend all their money. But it also speaks to the public image that he's been trying to shape. There's no reason for a billionaire to drive a Volkswagen unless he wants to seem like a man of the people.
Then there is all of the aforementioned carefully selected personal information feeds into the narrative that he is a family man, with values akin to a person fit for public office. Look at that guy teaching his daughter how to swim! Wouldn't you want him to be in charge of helping all our daughters? is probably what he hopes everyone will think.
For a good portion of 2017, Zuckerberg has been on a tour of Middle America—he helped plant a community garden in Texas. He visited a rodeo. He ate dinner with a random American family (democrats who voted for Trump, no less) just to listen to their story. He milked a cow in Wisconsin. The official story is that he simply set himself a New Year's resolution to visit every state in America, but it sure seems like a political tour. It sure seems like something that a presidential candidate would do.
Plus, running for office would be another creative way for Zuck to spend his hard-earned money. If he's not going to drive fancy cars, then he can certainly afford to finance a campaign. It will probably be awhile before we get any official answers on these potential political aspirations, but until then we'll be keeping a watchful eye—on both the press tours and that Hawaiian estate. 

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