Mark Zuckerberg’s turn into the metaverse has cost him dearly in the real world.
Even in a tough year for just about every U.S. tech titan, the wealth wiped from the CEO of Meta Platforms Inc. stands out. His fortune has halved and then some, falling by $71 billion so far this year, the most among the ultra-rich tracked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. At $55.9 billion, his net worth ranks 20th among global billionaires, his lowest position since 2014 and behind three Waltons and two members of the Koch family.
It was less than two years ago that Zuckerberg, 38, was worth $106 billion and was among an elite group of global billionaires, with only Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates having greater fortunes. His fortune swelled to a peak of $142 billion in September 2021, when the company’s shares reached as high as $382.
The following month, Zuckerberg introduced Meta, changing the company’s name from Facebook Inc. And it’s been mostly downhill from there as it struggles to find its footing in the tech universe.
Recent earnings reports have been dismal. It started in February, when the company disclosed no growth in monthly Facebook users, triggering a historic collapse in its share price and cutting Zuckerberg’s fortune by $31 billion, among the biggest one-day declines in wealth ever. Other issues include Instagram’s efforts at Reels — the answer to TikTok’s short-form video platform — even though it’s worth less in ad revenue, while the industry overall has been hit by lower marketing spending amid concerns about an economic downturn.
The stock is also being dragged down by the company’s investments in the metaverse, said Laura Martin, senior internet analyst at Needham & Co. Zuckerberg has said he expects the project to lose “significant” amounts of money over the next three to five years.
In the meantime, Meta “needs to get those users back from TikTok,” Martin said. It is also hampered by “excessive regulatory scrutiny and intervention,” she said.
The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company is doing worse in 2022 than most of its FAANG peers. That’s down about 57% this year, far more than the 14% declines for Apple Inc., 26% for Amazon.com Inc. and 29% for Google parent Alphabet Inc. Meta is even closing the gap on its 2022 losses with Netflix Inc. ., which is down around 60%.
If not for its foray into virtual reality, the social media giant “would be more in line with where Alphabet is,” said Mandeep Singh, technology analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. Meta could circumvent this problem by spinning off some of its other businesses, such as WhatsApp or Instagram, he said.
Almost all of Zuckerberg’s fortune is tied up in Meta shares. He has more than 350 million shares, according to the company’s latest proxy statement. The price was little changed at $146.18 at 12:22 in New York.
Zuckerberg has attempted a kind of rebranding. He recently uploaded a video of himself training mixed martial arts and repeatedly referred to himself as a “product designer” in a three-hour conversation on Joe Rogan’s podcast.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)