Age question rages as Zuckerberg turns 28, Facebook eyes IPO


By Barbara Ortutay, AP

NEW YORK–Don’t let the hoodie and sneakers fool you. Mark Zuckerberg is no wet-behind-the-ears CEO.

Facebook’s chief executive turns 28 on Monday, setting in motion the social network’s biggest week ever. The company is expected to start selling stock to the public for the first time and begin trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market on Friday. The initial public offering (IPO) could value Facebook at nearly US$100 billion, making it worth more than such iconic companies as Disney, Ford and Kraft Foods.

At 28, Zuckerberg is exactly half the age of the average S&P 500 CEO, according to executive search firm Spencer Stuart. With eight years on the job, he’s logged more time as leader than the average CEO, whose tenure is a little more than seven years, according to Spencer Stuart. Even so, the pressures of running a public company will undoubtedly take some getting used to. Once Facebook begins selling stock, Zuckerberg will be expected to please a host of new stakeholders, who will pressure him to keep the company growing.

Young as he may seem — especially in that hooded sweatshirt — Zuckerberg will be about the same age as Michael Dell and older than Steve Jobs when those two took their companies, Dell Inc. and Apple Inc., public. Jobs, in fact, was another Silicon Valley luminary who had Zuckerberg’s ear. Not much is known about the relationship Jobs and Zuckerberg shared, but Jobs reportedly told his biographer Walter Isaacson: “We talk about social networks in the plural, but I don’t see anybody other than Facebook out there. Just Facebook. They are dominating this. I admire Mark Zuckerberg … for not selling out, for wanting to make a company. I admire that a lot.”

When Jobs died last October, Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page, “Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you.”

Facebook, of course, got its start in Zuckerberg’s messy Harvard dormitory room in early 2004. Today more than 900 million people log in at least once a month, making Facebook the world’s definitive social network.

All along, Zuckerberg has shown a maturity beyond his years. As the site grew rapidly, Zuckerberg consistently rebuffed mouth-watering buyout offers, including from Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc.