Now that the Great Facebook IPO of 2012 is here, it's time for reporters to assess who missed out on making billions (or at least millions) by not backing the social network when it was getting started. One of those biggest losers: The Washington Post. Forbes' Jeff Bercovici offers an expose on the Washington Post Company's various financial problems. (Today's buyout news is just the latest.)
Among the revelations: flagship paper's declining ad revenue, the company's Kaplan unit's falling enrollment, and the overall catastrophe that was Newsweek. And though the newspaper's Social Reader is trying to do right by Facebook today, framing the entire Forbes piece was Graham's decision not to invest in Mark Zuckerberg's nascent company in 2005:
In early 2005 Chairman and CEO Donald E. Graham, tipped off to the then embryonic social networking site by an employee whose daughter was at Harvard, approached Zuckerberg about making an equity investment. Within days the two had a handshake deal for a $6 million infusion. But when Silicon Valley venture firm Accel Partners offered to buy in at a higher valuation, Zuckerberg got cold feet. Graham could have pressed him to honor his verbal contract or at least made a counteroffer. Instead, he encouraged the 20-year-old to follow his heart. Zuckerberg went with Accel.
If he’d played hardball (or even just asked Zuckerberg to honor their agreement or let him co-invest with Accel), none of this would matter. That stake in Facebook it doesn’t own? It could be worth $7 billion, according to PrivCo, a firm that tracks private companies.
Read Bercovici's entire article here.