Mark Zuckerberg sells $125m in Facebook shares for philanthropy

Facebook chief executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has just made his first big share sale to fund his family’s philanthropic initiative.

The sale of more than 760,000 shares of Facebook stock, valued at about $US95 million ($125 million), was made by Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Holdings and the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation, according to a regulatory filing Friday.

It will be the first of many sales in Zuckerberg’s plan to fund solutions for problems in health, science and education.

In a widely publicised letter to his newborn daughter, Zuckerberg with his wife, Priscilla Chan, in December said they would give away 99 per cent of their fortune over the course of the rest of their lives. They said they were doing this to “further the mission of advancing human potential” and to promote “equality by means of philanthropic, public advocacy, and other activities for the public good”.

At the time, the December pledge was worth about $US45 billion. Since then, Facebook stock has gained more than 15 per cent.

The step had been widely interpreted as Zuckerberg and Chan pledging their fortune to charity, yet the pair also garnered criticism for not announcing the establishment of a nonprofit group or a charitable foundation.

Their project, called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, is structured as a limited liability company. That means that, unlike a traditional charitable or philanthropic foundation, it can make political donations, lobby lawmakers, invest in businesses and recoup any profits from those investments.

Philanthropic foundations such as the one set up by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates typically support non-profit organisations, and they are required to pay out at least 5 per cent of their assets in grants each year, a restriction the Zuckerbergs will not face.


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