Report: WhatsApp Founders Walked Away From $1.3B

'WSJ' has lengthy piece on Jan Koum and Brian Acton's exit from the company
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 6, 2018 7:37 AM CDT
Report: WhatsApp Founders Walked Away From $1.3B
This Feb. 19, 2014, file photo, shows WhatsApp and Facebook app icons on a smartphone in New York.   (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)

Itching to take your job and shove it? What if doing so meant leaving $1.3 billion on the table? That's what the Wall Street Journal reports the founders of WhatsApp did in exiting Facebook prior to November. That's the month when their unvested shares would have fully vested, write Kirsten Grind and Deepa Seetharaman in the lengthy piece based on interviews with people close to the situation. Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $22 billion in 2014, a price nearly 10 times greater than that of its second biggest acquisition, and there has been a culture clash ever since. Founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton remained fiercely focused on privacy and eschewing ads as Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg "grew impatient" for a return on that meaty investment—though Facebook had initially promised to keep its hands off the messaging app.

Per Grind and Seetharaman's sources, when Acton exited in September he left $900 million in unvested shares on the table; Koum, who on April 30 said he was going, too, is expected to give up $400 million worth of shares. Acton originally tried to fight that, say sources, by pointing to an atypical clause in his and Koum's contract that said that if Facebook pushed "additional monetization initiatives," the two could bow out with "good reason" and see all their shares vest—so long as they were employed by Facebook when the monetization effort went into effect. Acton, who is said to be worth $3 billion, reportedly backed down after Facebook indicated it would fight him on it. Read the full article, which also gets into quibbles over office chairs, here. At Slate, Felix Salmon's takeaway from reading the "bombshell" piece is that Zuckerberg can't be trusted. (Read more WhatsApp stories.)

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