News and analysis
April 27, 2016

Zuckerberg Moves to Pay for $45 Billion Pledge

Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are readying some of the tens of billions of dollars they pledged to give away.

Mark Zuckerberg has taken a big step forward in filling the coffers of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the limited-liability company from which he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, pledged to give tens billions of dollars to do things like eradicate disease.

The social-media titan and the Facebook Board of Directors proposed Wednesday a new, nonvoting class of stock that would allow Mr. Zuckerberg to cash in some of his holdings without handing over any power to other shareholders.

"Priscilla and I will be able to give our money to fund important work sooner," Mr. Zuckerberg said in a statement. "Right now, there are amazing scientists, educators, and doctors around the world doing incredible work. We want to help them make a bigger difference today, not 30 or 40 years down the road."

Mr. Zuckerberg affirmed his intent to remain at the helm of Facebook but added he feels responsible to take on some global challenges "like helping to cure all diseases by the end of this century, upgrading our education system so it’s personalized for each student, and protecting our environment from climate change."

The three-for-one stock split will require stockholder approval at the annual meeting in June. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is expected to announce its first investment sometime this year.

Starting Young

In December, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Chan said they would dedicate 99 percent of their Facebook shares — then valued at about $45 billion — to "improving this world for the next generation." It drew international attention as one of the largest philanthropic commitments ever.

But the decision to use an LLC, as opposed to a traditional foundation, to do the giving also triggered questions and criticism, with some asking whether it could be accurately described as philanthropy. Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Chan said they chose the LLC structure because they wanted the flexibility of being able to make charitable grants and investments in for-profit companies to effect change.

In an email interview with The Chronicle in December, Ms. Chan said that when it came to their philanthropy, she and her husband were committed to listening, learning, and improving and were starting young "so that we can get better over time." 

Send an email to Megan O’Neil.