A sweet story about a young couple seeing all their dreams come true has quickly turned into a different tale of cold financial calculation that could only warm the heart of a tax accountant.
As you probably know by now, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg married his college sweetheart, Priscilla Chan, this weekend; just one day after becoming a billionaire 19 times over. The surprise backyard ceremony also happened to take place just days after she graduated from medical school, providing the perfect opportunity for the couple to officially launch the next chapter of their lives together. It was all very cute and romantic until everyone — including The New York Times — noticed that by waiting until the day after cashing in his fortune, Zuckerberg conveniently protected his billions from California's communal property law.
Under that state's marriage laws, everything a couple earns or buys after they become hitched is split equally between the partners should they ever get divorced. However, anything they owned before the marriage is theirs to keep. On Friday, Zuckerberg clearly established his pre-marriage net worth. Had he tied the knot on Thursday, the financial picture of the relationship would have been much murkier.
Of course, Zuckerberg and Chan probably also have a prenuptial agreement that lays out the division of assets more precisely and even if they don't, Chan could still fight for a share of the assets he earned before the actual wedding. Since they dated throughout almost the entire development of Facebook and she moved to California years ago to be with him, she'd have a pretty good case. That fact that she reportedly negotiated a "relationship contract" with him before agreeing to move west proves she's no dummy, either.
That does not mean that either one of them is a cold, calculating monster or that the couple won't have a long and happy life together. They've been together for nearly a decade now and there's no reason to think it won't last forever. But no one should know better than Facebook's first couple that anything can happen to people in an "it's complicated" world. They're are both smart, practical kids, who know not to make big life decisions without a lot of serious forethought and planning.
In fact, their normally rational, buttoned-down lives provide the impulsive counter-spin to this whole property affair — even if Zuckerberg had no choice but to follow his accountant's advice, once the IPO deed was done they couldn't wait even one more day to seal an even bigger merger.