Were Facebook's "adults" the problem?
FORTUNE — Mark Zuckerberg never wanted to take Facebook FB public. He didn’t want to kiss hedge fund rings or answer to thousands of shareholders or disclose earnings.
And, on Wall Street, the feeling was mutual. Institutional investors also didn’t want Zuckerberg to take Facebook public unless he added some big-name “adult” supervision. After all, what does a 20-something know about running a multi-billion dollar public corporation? Just imagine the costly mistakes he would make.
But Zuckerberg didn’t really have much of a choice. Due to the company’s employee compensation strategy, and its early embrace of private secondary market trading, he knew that going public was inevitable. So he did what he was told, and hired a bunch of “adults.”
First it hired Sheryl Sandberg to be chief operating officer. Then, several months later, Ted Ullyot joined as general counsel. Finally, David Ebersman was brought aboard in 2009 as chief financial officer, following an exhaustive search for a CFO “with public company experience.”
Then Zuckerberg went back to his desk to code, strategize and somehow make his dormroom project even more globally ubiquitous. His “adults” would take care of the boring legwork, and he’d learn some things by watching them.
From an AP story just days before Facebook’s recent IPO:
Today, however, it seems that those mentors might have led the kid, and his company, astray.
First there’s Sandberg, who apparently recused herself from the underwriter selection process, apparently because she had existing relationships with certain bankers from her time with Google GOOG . Pardon me, but wouldn’t such relationships actually have been important? Not to get bankers to take on Facebook as a client — everyone wanted them — but because she might have a better sense of who would, and wouldn’t, be the best fit? And, once Facebook did pick her pal Michael Grimes over at Morgan Stanley MS , wouldn’t it have been good to have a third opinion in the room — particularly one so close to both key players?
Then there is Ebersman, who oversees a financial operation that allegedly warned underwriter analysts — but not others — to cut Q2 guidance estimates. If true, what he did may actually have violated securities regulations — and also means he shouldn’t be too quick to count his unvested shares.
To be sure, the buck ultimately stops with Zuckerberg, because he is Facebook’s CEO. But today he’s got to be wondering if he was too trusting. Not only of those he put in charge, but of those who told him he needed adult supervision in the first place.
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