Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan celebrated the birth of a baby girl with the stunning announcement they plan to give away most of their fortune through a new initiative to "advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation."
The billionaire Facebook founder and chief executive and his physician wife pledged to give away 99% of their Facebook shares in their lifetime, currently worth about $45 billion. They made the announcement in a letter to their newborn daughter Max posted on Facebook on Tuesday, the national day of giving known as #GivingTuesday. Max was born "early the week of Thanksgiving," Facebook said.
"Our initial areas of focus will be personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities," Zuckerberg and Chan wrote to their daughter. "We know this is a small contribution compared to all the resources and talents of those already working on these issues. But we want to do what we can, working alongside many others."
Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg commented on Facebook: "This is a beautiful letter and an incredible commitment to future generations."
The pledge is remarkable given Zuckerberg's relative youth — he's 31 — and because he's still at the apex of his career running Facebook, a prosperous tech giant that powers the world's most popular social network and boasts a $300 billion market cap. The size of his fortune is so large that, even if he were to give all 99% of his shares away today, he and Chan would still be sitting on Facebook shares worth an estimated $450 million.
Facebook said Zuckerberg's gradual dispersal of Facebook shares would not affect his status as the controlling shareholder of Facebook "for the foreseeable future." Zuckerberg has committed to disposing of no more than $1 billion of Facebook stock (FB) each year for the next three years, Facebook said.
Zuckerberg will continue his role as chairman and CEO "for many, many years," Facebook said in a statement.
"Mark and Priscilla are early in their careers and will continue to lead active lives — Priscilla as a pediatrician and Founder and CEO of The Primary School, and Mark as the leader of Facebook," according to the statement. "They have been very fortunate in their work and do not want to wait until later in life to give back. Instead, they believe in pursuing philanthropy concurrently with pursuing their professional careers."
Zuckerberg and Chan made the surprise announcement after the close of trading. Facebook shares barely budged after hours.
Last month, Zuckerberg said he would take two months of paternity leave after the birth of his daughter, setting a new precedent for technology chief executives. Facebook has not said who will run the company in Zuckerberg's absence.
Zuckerberg and Chan declined an interview request.