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Facebook IPO Pumps Wealth into Silicon Valley

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Silicon Valley is once again flush with nouveau riche after a wave of tech IPOs that will be eclipsed by Facebook's. LinkedIn, Zynga and Yelp -- a few of the local start-ups to go public in the past year -- raised a combined $1.5 billion in IPOs. But that's chump change compared with Facebook's possible $16 billion offering from its upcoming IPO.

These upstarts and others minted hundreds, if not thousands, of new millionaires. Now, Facebook, shaping up as the largest-ever technology IPO, will add another thousand or more millionaires -- and a bunch of billionaires.

Facebook is expected to begin Nasdaq trading on Friday in the largest-ever Internet IPO that could easily value it above $100 billion.

With even a minor first-day pop in trading, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's stock holdings will make him one of the top 10 wealthiest Americans. COO Sheryl Sandberg likely will have more than $1 billion in paper riches, as well. And a long list of venture capital firms with stakes stands to rake in more billions.

The Valley's tech boom is boosting the net worth of area residents so much that the region's growing wealth and spending --and taxes they generate -- provide one of the few bright spots in California's creaking economy.

Facebook's windfall for regional businesses and California's state budget is "a lot of money," says Jason Sisney, an analyst in the state's Legislative Analyst Office. "This is clearly a big deal for California companies and California taxpayers."

That office estimates Facebook could pump an additional $2 billion into state coffers by 2013, mostly for personal income taxes due on stock-based compensation and from cashing in on the IPO.

The city of Menlo Park, home to Facebook's expanding headquarters, could take in $24 million a year in retail and lodging business from the social network's employees, the company says.

"It's certainly going to be a giant inflow of wealth into the region from Facebook and companies that follow," says Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities. And wealth will generate more wealth, he says. "The ripple effect is that the wealth that was created will be put into other ideas."

Home prices shoot up

Real estate near Facebook's headquarters is booming.

"When you get a significant wealth-creating event like a Google or a Facebook (IPO), it does affect real estate prices," says Geoff Yang, a founding partner at Redpoint Ventures, in Menlo Park.

In the past year, Zuckerberg bought a $7 million house in Palo Alto. Zuckerberg's former No. 2, Owen Van Natta, a few months ago snagged a house listed at $8.6 million in the same neighborhood. Sandberg is building a multimillion-dollar modern mansion in Menlo Park.

Topping them all: Russian investor Yuri Milner, whose DST Global venture firm stands to make billions from Facebook stakes, last year bought a $100 million mansion in nearby Los Altos Hills.

Overall, Palo Alto "real estate is already up 10% this year in anticipation" of the Facebook IPO, says Vista Wealth Management CEO Michael Spector.

Home prices in the center of Palo Alto are up 29% from a year ago, according to data from real estate site Zillow.com. Realtors say the area has long commanded a premium but is experiencing a wave not unlike when Google went public.

Google's 2004 public debut, which raised $1.7 billion at a $23 billion valuation, is estimated to have created 1,000 millionaires. Realtors say that after the IPO, a standing joke was that they often hosted Google open house showings.

A development now is a trend to more all-cash offers. "The other day, we had eight offers, and seven of them were in cash," says Alain Pinel real estate agent Bob Gerlach, based in Palo Alto. "A lot of them have stock in tech companies."

Penelope Huang, a ReMax Realtor based in neighboring Menlo Park, says cash is so common, it's no longer king. Hopeful "buyers will say, 'But I have cash,' and I will say, 'So do the other four buyers.' You can literally close the transaction in 10 days because the money is in the bank. I think this is a phenomenon unique to this area."

Driving new wealth

Fancy car dealers are also in position to cash in on the new Silicon Valley boom.

Hometown star Elon Musk co-founded PayPal and later started Tesla Motors, which built its reputation on a $128,000 high-performance electric roadster that has ended its production run. The car is a common sight in Google's parking lots.

Tesla, which has a dealership in Menlo Park, has a new model rolling out next month -- the Model S sedan, built in the Bay Area and starting at about $50,000. In what may be an indication of demand and new wealth, Tesla already has sold out of advance orders for the elite Model S Signature model, which fetches $95,000 and up.

Fisker Automotive, which makes a plug-in hybrid luxury sedan that goes for about $102,000, set up a dealership for the high-style car in Palo Alto last year. That came right after -- and next door to -- a McLaren dealership. McLaren's high-tech, high-performance MP4-12C gasoline-engine sports car will set you back about $240,000.

"The Fisker, McLaren and Tesla auto dealers that we have certainly hope to attract some of those 1,000 millionaires," says Thomas Fehrenbach, economic development manager for Palo Alto. The car companies declined to comment.

New luxury cars aren't the only ones selling. Vintage exotic cars often are bought as investments and as a currency hedge, says Spencer Trenery, owner of Fantasy Junction. His East Bay showroom is across the street from animation giant Pixar in Emeryville. "The car market we're in more or less mimics the (fine) art industry," he says.

But a glimpse of Facebook's parking lot reveals that owning fancy or exotic cars may be more part of the ethos of its investors than its employees. Zuckerberg famously drives an entry-level Acura.

"This generation is a little more down to earth and focused on quality of life and less focused on buying Armani suits and materialism," says Spector.

Non-profits also profit

Non-profits in the area also are benefiting. For one thing, Facebook is lavishing the region with charity work and donations.

This comes as it tries to gain support for an office expansion to double its footprint in Menlo Park.

"We're seeing a lot of philanthropy, like people giving stocks to charities," says Daniel Goldie, president of Dan Goldie Financial Services.

Like Apple and Hewlett-Packard before it, Facebook is donating computers and information technology resources to local schools. It has also donated computers to a church program in Palo Alto. Facebook has given money to Menlo-Atherton High School, as well as computers and IT services to Menlo Park's Ravenswood School District. And the company has created a community fund intended to benefit non-profits in the area, putting in $500,000.

"We are very fortunate as a city and county, and state, when the IPO goes through," says Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith. "We all reap the benefits."

Facebook hired four students from local career counseling and training center JobTrain, and donated computers, IT support and funding..

Facebook employees aren't showy types, says Kail Lubarsky, spokeswoman for JobTrain. "There's no flash at all. You just don't see any showy displays."

Guiding new millionaires

Also reaping benefits are firms providing financial services to those with swelling net worth. "We've been growing 25% to 30% for the last few years. Anyone who works in my field who does a decent job, it's been like drinking from a fire hose," Spector says.

JPMorgan Chase plans 650 new locations this year with financial planning services targeting people with $250,000 to $5 million, and many will be in California in and around Silicon Valley.

But there is a difference now from the dot-com era of the 1990s, planners say. This generation of the newly wealthy so far seems more conservative with money than their predecessors, perhaps because they are mindful of the dot-com bust that followed the '90s boom.

"I'm seeing some differences from the late 1990s, in a good way," says Goldie. "Investors are smarter about diversifying and selling most of the shares when it's available to diversify their holdings. I think people have learned from what happened 10 to 15 years ago."

All this increased wealth comes at a price: parking and traffic problems. Nearby freeways that feed into Facebook and Google often have major delays.

"Restaurants have been busy, hotels have been busy. Traffic has been really bad, if that's any indication of the economy," says Redpoint's Yang.

Facebook is helping to continue already good times for the restaurant and hospitality industry, says Daniel Conway, legislative and public affairs director at the California Restaurant Association. "Google had a huge effect and benefit."

Says financial adviser Goldie: "Much like the late '90s, I have seen a definite increase in traffic on the road and people out here. There's a lot of people with money to spend on food and electronics. It's back again."

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