The 2022 stock market crisis reduced the personal worth of many tech billionaires, but not more so than meta-CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The founder of what was formerly known as Facebook Zuckerberg has seen his net worth fall by nearly $71 billion this year, according to Bloomberg calculations. Zuckerberg, now 38, has slipped from No. 3 on the Forbes billionaires list last year to No. 22 today.
Blame it on the dizzying drop in the price of Meta stock, which holds most of Zuckerberg’s fortune. While the financial markets crash this year has eroded the fortunes of several tech billionaires by about a quarter, no one, not even crypto CEO Changpeng Zhao, has seen a wipeout on the scale of Zuckerberg.
Since Facebook went meta nearly a year ago, the stock has lost about 60% of its value, taking Zuckerberg’s value down with it.
The company’s move to the Metaverse underscores the difficulties with its traditional business model, which relies on selling massive amounts of advertising in exchange for very specific user data. Apple’s iOS 14 changes last year, which made tracking more difficult for advertisers, severely impacted Meta’s earning power.
Among social media companies, Meta and Snap rely the most on iOS users, said Angelo Zino, an analyst at CFRA covering social media companies. He pointed to Google’s parent company Alphabet, whose earnings have held up better “because they’re not as exposed to the iOS changes,” he said.
“The privacy issue was a much bigger thorn than most people anticipated, and it’s probably going to be a problem longer than anyone thought,” he added.
Along with the slowdown in revenue, Meta reported its first-ever user count drop in February. At the same time, the company has increased its spending by about $10 billion a year to build the virtual reality metaverse, a project Zuckerberg has signaled could take many years. That’s a concern for investors, who see spending spike in the near term with no guarantee of a payout.
“There’s reason to be excited if you’re a long-term investor, but what we know about investors is that they tend to be impatient,” Zino told CBS MoneyWatch.
Zuckerberg remains optimistic
“You know the next vision for the broader internet could potentially get there, you just don’t know how long it will take and what exactly Meta’s role will be…essentially all you know right now is that it will cost a lot will be money,” he said.
Still, the slump in his fortune doesn’t seem to have dampened Zuckerberg’s techno-optimism. Speaking to podcast host Joe Rogan last month, the meta boss reiterated his belief that the metaverse is “more useful” and would allow people to have a “healthier” relationship with technology.
“I don’t necessarily want people to spend more time on computers,” Zuckerberg said, according to Fortune. “I just want the time people spend with screens to be better.”
Related story: New York Camp Counselor Auctioning Autographed Mark Zuckerberg Baseball Card