Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has started to accelerate his funding of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic investment vehicle he set up with his wife, Priscilla Chan, in late 2015.
Zuckerberg has sold $108.6 million worth of Facebook stock this week, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday.* Zuckerberg has been selling stock regularly through a prearranged sales plan for almost two years, and this sale is not exceptionally large.
But the sale does have some special significance: A spokesperson for CZI confirmed that it marks the beginning of a sales process Zuckerberg outlined in September, when he announced plans to “accelerate” his stock sales over an 18-month period in order to “fully fund” CZI.
“These sales are the next step in a process Mark laid out in September to fund the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s work in science, education and issues related to justice and opportunity,” a CZI spokesperson told Recode. “The funds will go to support a range of CZI’s philanthropic activities and operations for many years to come.”
When CZI launched in 2015 at the same time Chan and Zuckerberg had their first daughter, Zuckerberg said he planed to “sell or gift no more than $1 billion of Facebook stock each year for the next three years.”
In two years, Zuckerberg has sold about $1.6 billion of Facebook stock to fund CZI.
But last September, Zuckerberg changed the plan: He would now sell between 35 million and 75 million shares of stock “in the next 18 months,” he wrote.
Wednesday’s sale is the first to count toward that new commitment, which means that if Zuckerberg stays to true to that plan, he could sell as much as $13.3 billion of stock in the next 13 months, given Facebook’s current stock price.
The revised sales plan came about after Zuckerberg and Facebook’s board tried and failed to split Facebook’s stock — an attempt to issue a new class of nonvoting shares into the market that would help Zuckerberg sell his own shares without losing voting control over Facebook in the process. As of last April, Zuckerberg controlled 59.7 percent of Facebook’s voting power.
Investors sued Facebook over the plan, and the company’s board dropped the stock split just a few days before Zuckerberg was set to testify publicly in court.
“Facebook’s business has performed well and the value of our stock has grown to the point that I can fully fund our philanthropy and retain voting control of Facebook for 20 years or more,” he wrote at the time.
Zuckerberg has not said anything publicly about his plans to sell Facebook stock after this accelerated plan is done sometime early next year. But he and Chan have pledged to give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares over their lifetime. Zuckerberg’s net worth is more than $72 billion.
Of course, even this plan could change. Zuckerberg’s plans are not binding in any way — they’re mostly guidelines to keep investors abreast of the fact that the CEO is offloading billions of dollars in stock.