On the eve of Facebook’s 500 millionth-user-milestone, founder Mark Zuckerberg faces a crisis.
According to a July 2010 report at Bloomberg.com, Zuckerberg may have signed a contract in 2003 entitling Web designer Paul Ceglia to 84 percent of the Facebook company. Zuckerberg’s lawyers seem a bit clueless on the matter, and according to Bloomberg News, told U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara, “Whether he signed this piece of paper, we’re unsure at this moment.”
UPDATE: As of July 23, Facebook is claiming the document is a “forgery.”
The implications of this dispute could be catastrophic for the hipster-dressing Zuckerberg, the brain and CEO behind Facebook, that is reportedly worth $24.6 billion.
It’s the perfect Hollywood twist at an incredibly opportune time. The long awaited Facebook movie, “The Social Network” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake, and penned by “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin, is due out next October; a controversy surrounding its main players could stand to boost the box office.
Zuckerberg, of course, is trying to downplay the drama. He has called the movie about his journey from Harvard to Silicon Valley “fiction” and he told ABC’s Diane Sawyer that Facebook’s backstory isn’t all that interesting:
“I just think people have a lot of fiction. But, you know, I mean, the real story of Facebook is just that we’ve worked so hard for all this time…the real story is actually probably pretty boring, right? I mean, we just sat at our computers for six years and coded.”
Coding may not make for an interesting film, but lawsuits do, and Facebook has been besotted by those. According to PCWorld.com, the current allegations stem from 2003 when then-Harvard student Zuckerberg was hired by Ceglia to do some—you guessed it, coding—for various projects, one of which was called “Facebook”. And there were other lawsuits with similar charges, like another in 2003 with a pair of Zuckerberg’s Harvard pals that cost him $65 million.
If this story sounds strangely familiar, it’s because Zuckerberg had a similar arrangement with Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (yes, really) back in December 2003. They hired Zucky to do some coding for their nascent campus social network, then called HarvardConnection (later ConnectU). A few weeks later, Zuckerberg magically came up with his own idea for a social network, named theFacebook, which itself was borrowed from the name for Harvard’s online student directory. Later, Winkledudes.
That bit of fancy codework ended up in a lawsuit that got settled when Facebook agreed to pay the Winklevoss twins (yes, really) $65 million. The Winklevosses are now disputing the terms of their settlement, claming that Facebook’s attorneys lied about the company’s true worth. They’re accusing Zuckerberg of securities fraud.
Zuckerberg may understand the details of coding, but he’s obviously clueless about Hollywood. The Facebook story is adding up to be divine entertainment.