Inspired by the birth of their daughter, Dr. Priscilla Chan and husband Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's first family, pledged last December to give away 99 percent of their extremely valuable company stock during their lifetime. At the time, that was the equivalent of $45 billion in cold, hard cash, and some months later, they're getting things rolling: The Zuckerberg Chan Initiative, as it's called, sold 767,905 shares of Facebook stock on Wednesday and Thursday as those shares were trading at $123, which the Business Times reports per SEC filings. That's $95 million, before taxes, Wired points out.
But as Fortune, BuzzFeed, and others reported last year after really digging into filings, the Initiative is actually a limited-liability corporation rather than a charitable trust, meaning that its funds don't simply need to go to charity, but can be channelled toward “philanthropic, public advocacy, and other activities for the public good.” To call it a straight-up charity, then, might be a bit too charitable.
Indeed, as an LLC, the Initiative allows political and advocacy donations that would otherwise be forbidden by charitable organizations, and it is further unbound by certain filing constraints and payout requirements. “The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will pursue its mission by funding non-profit organizations, making private investments and participating in policy debates, in each case with the goal of generating positive impact in areas of great need,” a release explained. “Any profits from investments in companies will be used to fund additional work to advance the mission.”
As Zuckerberg and Chan plan to "sell or gift no more than $1 billion of Facebook stock each year for the next three years," Zuckerberg will retain his majority voting stake in Facebook stock, "For the foreseeable future." He owns more than 400 million shares.
Reacting to the latest cash infusion of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Rob Reich, a co-director of Stanford's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, told Wired that “Covering a public announcement of do-gooding, with no follow-up on how he actually allocates the millions of dollars, just burnishes his reputation... Don’t call this do-gooding yet. Call for more transparency.”
Speaking of which, if you've been thinking of Zuckerberg as some kind of Rockefeller-style industry titan and philanthropist, you're neither alone nor very on target. Recently, Snopes debunked viral (and somewhat virulent) tin-foil hat theories that Mark Zuckerberg is David Rockeffeller's grandson, real name Jacob Michael Greenberg. Nahhhh.