Facebook technology chief Bret Taylor has announced he is leaving the social media company later this summer to start up a new venture with Google App Engine founder Kevin Gibbs. According to TechCrunch, Taylor’s departure will not be the first as a number of Facebook’s longer-term executives “have hit their four year stock cliffs, and the 90 day IPO lockout fast approaches.”
Taylor used a Facebook status update to announce the change after the market closed. While Taylor wrote that he is “extremely confident in the teams and leadership we have in place” and said he was proud of some recent developments (Facebook Camera and integration with Apple products), CNET’s Paul Sloan observes that “there has to be some anxiety at the company and potentially among investors.” Besides Facebook’s main platform, Taylor oversaw Facebook’s mobile operations — and mobile is the very area that the company has come under fire for, due to Facebook’s failure so far to make a profit from its quickly growing mobile user base.
TechCrunch‘s Alexia Tsotsis also says she has heard of a “modified hiring freeze” at Facebook “due to the IPO fallout.” While Facebook’s May 17th IPO was greeted with much fanfare, the share price has stayed below the initial price ($38); on Friday, it closed at $30, 21 percent below the initial IPO price.
More than 40 lawsuits have been filed by shareholders who contend Facebook withheld the company’s revised growth figures from them. The SEC is undertaking an investigation about whether the stock price was too high, and why Facebook and its lead underwriter Morgan Stanley significantly increased the number of shares available in the week before the IPO. According to Bloomberg, the SEC is also investigating CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s power and specifically his “ability to designate a successor, and the implications of being a ‘controlled company.’”
Taylor’s departure portends more than might be apparent. Tsotsis also comments: “Facebook has had a monopoly on the best and brightest engineering talent for the past couple of years and it’ll shake the Valley to its core.”
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