Facebook Puts Employee Stock Sale On Hold

    December 5, 2008

If you’re friends with any Facebook employees, don’t be surprised if your holiday gifts from them wind up being homemade ashtrays instead of multiple DVD sets.  The sale of shares that would have allowed some employees to make $900,000 has been postponed.

Early reports had Mark Zuckerberg giving employees permission to sell either 20 percent or $900,000 worth of their shares – whichever was less – starting November 1st.  The move was supposed to address concerns about the lack of a millionaire-minting IPO, and felt like a nice seasonal present, too.

Mark Zuckerburg
 Mark Zuckerburg

We’ve moved into December, however, and there’s still no sale in sight.  A Facebook rep explained to Eric Eldon, "After carefully considering the current environment, we’ve decided to establish an open-ended timetable for an employee stock sale program."  Then there’s a predictable bit of blah-blah-blah about how Facebook is in a strong position.

Still, all things considered, this reversal may do Facebook, its current investors, and its employees a big favor.  A sale that revealed a soft market for Facebook shares would damage the company’s value and leave workers feeling slighted.  Better to wait until established corporations like Microsoft, Google, and eBay aren’t sitting near multi-year lows.

For whatever it’s worth, Mark Zuckerberg sounds genuinely sorry about the situation, too.  According to Owen Thomas, he told employees in an email, "I’m writing this note to let you know some bad news.  Despite a lot of work, we have not been able to finalize a plan for the employee stock sale we announced in August."