If you know Twitter’s history well, you won’t be surprised to learn that
Evan “Ev” Williams is its largest shareholder. He owns so much of the company, he could become a multi-billionaire once the company goes public,
Williams reportedly owns 15% of Twitter, more than his co-founder Jack Dorsey. Dorsey is the one who actually came up with the idea for real-time mass text messages. But Williams owned the company that spawned Twitter, Odeo.
Twitter’s private market cap is currently $US10.5 billion. If the company goes public at the same valuation, Williams will amass about $US1.5 billion. If the market cap opens higher, Williams will be worth multiple billions.
Williams was already worth a lot before co-founding Twitter. He sold his company Blogger to Google in 2003. The acquisition amount was never disclosed, but it was likely in the $20-50 million range.
When Twitter was still young, Williams made a wise business move that positioned him to become its largest shareholder.
Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson wrote about it at length in 2011, but here’s the most relevant bit:
One day in September 2006, Odeo’s CEO Evan Williams wrote a letter to Odeo’s investors. In it, Williams told them that the company was going nowhere, that he felt bad about that, and that he would like to buy back their shares so they wouldn’t take a loss.
In his letter to Odeo’s investors, Williams wrote this about Twitter:
By the way, Twitter (http://twitter.com), which you may have read about, is one of the pieces of value that I see in Odeo, but it’s much too early to tell what’s there. Almost two months after launch, Twitter has less than 5,000 registered users. I will continue to invest in Twitter, but it’s hard to say it justifies the venture investment Odeo certainly holds — especially since that investment was for a different market altogether.
Evan proposed buying back Odeo investors’ stock, and, eventually, the investors agreed to the buyback. So Evan bought the company — and Twitter. The amount he paid has never been reported. Multiple investors, who had combined to put $US5 million into Odeo, say Evan made them whole.
Five years later, assets of the company the original Odeo investors sold for approximately $US5 million are worth at least 1000X more: $US5 billion.