Power Players

Mark Zuckerberg's dad said he could go to Harvard or have a McDonald's franchise

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Harvard University at its 2017 366th Commencement Exercises on May 25, 2017 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Paul Marotta | Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg famously started Facebook in his Harvard University dorm.

But before he even went to college, Zuckerberg's father Edward offered his son an alternative: a future as a McDonald's franchise owner.

"My dad, funny enough, right before each of us went to college offered us the options of going to college or like investing in a franchise and running it," sister Randi Zuckerberg told CNN Business' Laurie Segall of her dad's offer to his son and each of his three daughters.

Of course, Zuckerberg chose Harvard — and then dropped out.

"I think [my parents] were like 'OK, you probably should have taken the McDonald's franchise money if you wanted a business. But, OK, this might be a second good choice,'" Randi told CNN.

When Zuckerberg started college in 2002, no one could have foreseen that his time Harvard would eventually make him a multibillionaire.

In fact, had Zuckerberg chosen Big Macs over books, he could have made a good living by most people's standards. A 2016 report from CNBC and Franchise Business Review pegged the average profit of food and beverage franchises at $90,388 a year. And it's not unusual for McDonald's owners to make six figures, according to a 2015 Bloomberg story.

Of course, Zuckerberg currently has a net worth of $43.2 billion, according to Bloomberg's Billionaires Index, which roughly translates to making $2.4 billion per year since dropping out of college in 2004.

It's unclear how much Zuckerberg's father would have needed to invest for a McDonald's franchise in the early 2000s. As of February 2019, according to the McDonald's website, the total investment to begin operation of a traditional McDonald's franchise ranges from $1,013,000 to $2,185,000, and "profitability depends on many factors."

This story has been updated to reflect Mark Zuckerberg's net worth as of Nov. 17, 2022.

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