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The Zuckerbergs’ transformation into mega-philanthropists is the perfect ending to Facebook’s career year

Reuters/Stephen Lam
This article is more than 2 years old.

Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford, Gates, and, now, Zuckerberg.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Tuesday (Dec. 1) that he and his wife plan to donate almost all their shares in the social-media giant—a stockpile currently valued at roughly $45 billion—to charitable causes, immediately elevating the 31-year-old into orbit among the most prominent industrialist-turned-philanthropists in the world.

The announcement, which came as part of a letter to his just born daughter Max, provides a fitting ending to a year that saw Facebook’s shares soar 37%, trouncing the gain of the S&P 500 stock index, which rose just 2%.

Since the beginning of the year, Facebook’s market value has risen from roughly $220 billion to $300 billion. And over the past two years, Facebook has at times leapfrogged the market cap of some of the largest companies in corporate America, including JPMorgan Chase, General Electric, IBM, and Bank of America.

It is now the seventh-largest company in the S&P 500, by market value, according to data provider FactSet.

The reason? This year Facebook came into its own as a corporate entity, delivering on better-than-expected profits, rising revenues, and increasing numbers of active users (there are now some 1 billion daily active users on the site).

Facebook has also continued to show significant progress in solving what was once its most-pressing business quandary: Making money on mobile activity.

Zuckerberg has engaged in charitable giving for years, but nothing remotely on this scale. And his transformation into a full-blown philanthropist won’t take place overnight. As explained in an SEC filing, the plan to donate his fortune will commence with the sale or gift of no more than $1 billion over each of the next three years.

But his turn toward charity does continue his string of precociousness. (Microsoft founder Bill Gates was in his early 40s when he ramped up his charitable giving in the late 1990s.) With an endowment of more than $41 billion, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest in the US.

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