Facebook's IPO roadshow rolled through Silicon Valley on Friday, part of a weeklong pitch session to institutional investors eager to buy the social network's stock when it goes on sale. With the company's initial public offering of stock widely expected next Friday, Facebook officials -- led by Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman, with occasional cameos by co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg -- have been on a weeklong visit to managers of pension funds, mutual funds and other large investment vehicles.
An estimated 200 people attended the luncheon and Zuckerberg fielded about 10 questions after giving a brief preamble, according to source inside the room who asked not to be identified. The topics included the future of Facebook and the $1 billion purchase of Instagram. Zuckerberg wore a gray T-shirt and blue jeans.
Zuckerberg is expected to hold private meetings with investors next week.
Before the event began, security at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Palo Alto was tight --hotel employees kept reporters to a sidewalk area, while inside, dark-suited men with ear pieces and Facebook staffers with badges around their necks kept an eye on the crowd. Although the event had been scheduled for noon, by 12:15 p.m. would-be investors were still lined up outside 20 deep.
At 12:18 four SUVs with tinted windows pulled past a gathering of TV cameras and drove to the rear of the hotel, past a security checkpoint.
Behind the double doors to the ballroom where the meeting was taking place, a huge blue screen emblazoned with the Facebook logo directed the crowd to split into two alphabetical groups, A through M, and N through Z.
A Facebook staffer could be heard asking people to produce both their business cards and IDs. Even Jim Breyer, a venture capitalist with Accel Partners -- and Facebook's second largest investor behind Zuckerberg himself -- had to wait in line, although another early company backer, angel investor Ron Conway, was escorted to the front.
Among those outside were William Brown, chief financial officer of Sacramento-based family investment fund Nova Development Group. He and a business partner had driven into town with plans to invest $1.6 million in Facebook stock but, said Brown, "There are some questions about the company's longevity and their prospects over the next four years."
He hoped to get those questions answered by Zuckerberg and other Facebook officials.
Also waiting to get in was Rob Romero, portfolio manager for Connective Capital Management, an investment firm based in Palo Alto. He said he is looking to take a long-term view of Facebook's growth prospects.
"I really hope to get a sense of the staying power of the company," he said.
Zuckerberg reportedly angered some roadshow investors Monday by arriving late to the kick-off meeting in New York. The 27-year-old chief executive also was criticized for wearing his trademark "hoodie" rather than a suit and tie and for leaving investors waiting while he went to the bathroom, which limited time for prospective investors to ask questions.
Zuckerberg then skipped the next day's event in Boston, which raised more eyebrows. Stops in Baltimore and Philadelphia followed before Friday's appearance in Palo Alto, which was expected to present Zuckerberg and company with a friendlier crowd.
The roadshow is expected to continue next week in Chicago, Kansas City and Denver before returning to Menlo Park, according to analyst Sam Hamadeh. The CEO of New York-based PrivCo, which tracks information on public companies, has been closely following the Facebook IPO.
Hamadeh has been notably bearish on the stock offering in recent weeks amid concerns that Zuckerberg's "hacker mentality" approach to the IPO could turn off Wall Street and portend future bumpiness in the stock's price. In a letter released when the company filed plans to go public in February, Zuckerberg warned prospective buyers that he sees making money as a means of making the world more connected, rather than his chief focus as the head of a public company.
Even after Facebook goes public, Zuckerberg will retain control over 56 percent of its voting stock thanks to unique arrangements forged over the years with his venture capital investors.
Just over 337 million of the company shares -- nearly 14 percent -- are being sold through the IPO. Of those, 180 million will be offered by the company itself, with the rest coming from Zuckerberg, other early employees and investors.
The offering could haul in a total of $10.6 billion at the top of the stock's price range of $28 to $35 a share. Amid media reports that the offering is already oversubscribed -- meaning more investors have asked to buy shares than there are shares available -- the final price is almost certain to rise.
In any event, the IPO is expected to dwarf that of Google's $1.9 billion offering in 2004, which is the current record-holder for an Internet company.
Hamadeh said he's been told Zuckerberg will personally ring the opening bell on Friday when the company's stick begins trading on the Nasdaq exchange under the symbol FB.
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