Facebook and CFO Gideon Yu did not part ways because the company needs a CFO with public company experience. A source familiar with Facebook admits that’s just spin.
We don’t know exactly why Facebook and Gideon parted ways, but after talking to several sources inside and outside the company, we believe it basically happened for a reason that contributed to several top executives — specifically including Owen Van Natta and Matt Cohler — quitting the company in the past 13 months.
Mark Zuckerberg no longer tolerates open disagreement or challenging discussion in meetings from his top lieutenants.
“There’s no dissent in meetings,” says a source. “It’s basically like we’re at GM or GE.”
It wasn’t always like that, one of the disgruntled former Facebook employees tells us:
The reason why we were good in the early days was that dissent was allowed and encouraged. That’s the reason you go to a startup. That early team was amazing.
That early team is gone. Many of its members planned to leave eventually, but not as soon as they did. We hear that Matt Cohler, for example, left “several millions” on the table when he quit Facebook to become a Benchmark Capital partner earlier than he planned to.
So what happened? A couple of explanations:
- By bringing in Sheryl Sandberg and Elliot Schrage, Mark Zuckerberg hired two executives who are very good at PR. Since when you’re holding a hammer everything looks like a nail, Facebook now focuses far more on its public image than it ever used to. Says one source, “entire meetings are about PR and what we’re going to say to the public. In the old days [PR] was almost scorned.” An executive team obsessed with the company’s image isn’t usually one that will eagerly embrace messy disagreements.
- Mark Zuckerberg has begun “believing his own hype,” a source says. He believes he is the genius the magazine covers say he is. Mark has always been an executive who made life difficult for those he disagreed with. “Mark is a very demanding person to work for, if you screw up, one day you are in, the next day out, persona non grata,” says one former employee. Now that he thinks he’s Steve Jobs, he’s unbearable.
What the specific disagreement between Mark and Gideon was, we can’t say. (Fill us in: [email protected]).
Gideon Yu is the guy who crafted the biggest deal in the Web 2.0 era, selling YouTube to Google for $1.65 billion. Gideon Yu is the guy who, selling 1.6% Facebook to Microsoft for $240 million, found the cash to fuel Facebook’s remarkable growth to 200 million users. Facebook investors should ask themselves whether it’s really in the company’s interest for Mark Zuckerberg not to tolerate dissenting opinions from folks like that.
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