Zuckerberg Becomes Philanthropist As He Surges Up The Rich List

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has surged up the ranks of the Forbes Rich List and is making his debut as a major philanthropist with a $100m donation to Newark schools.

The Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America now ranks Zuckerberg as the 35th richest person in the US, with a net worth of $6.9 billion. This puts him ahead of media mogul Rupert Murdoch of News Corp and Apple chief executive Steve Jobs.

The news comes as Zuckerberg reportedly prepares to set up a charitable foundation with $100 million of Facebook’s shares, mainly for the purpose of helping Newark’s troubled school system. The current budget for schools in Newark, New Jersey – where only half the students graduate and one in five go on to college – is $940 million or $22,000 per year per pupil. The Wall Street Journal reports that the gift will be announced Friday on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Apparently Zuckerberg has made charitable donations in the past but this is by far his largest. Often entrepreneurs wait until later in their careers before getting involved in major philanthropy but at age 26, Zuckerberg is starting early.

Zuckerberg’s place on the Forbes list is based on the fact that he owns more than a quarter of Facebook’s stock, which is valued at an incredible $33 billion based on the amount that minority investors previously paid for small stakes in the company. I use the word “incredible” advisedly – like other observers, I doubt that the company in its entirety would be worth anywhere near that much. I would expect Zuckerberg’s net wealth to fluctuate and his position on the list to shift accordingly, since Facebook is yet to go public and estimates of the company value are therefore speculative and probably over-inflated.

Still, there is no doubt that Zuckerberg is a wealthy guy and it’s great to see him using some of his money as a force for good. I’m not suggesting that this is a motive but the timing of Zuckerberg’s debut into major philanthropy may also help shake off negative public perceptions from the sensationalized retelling of Facebook’s foundation in the upcoming movie The Social Network.