Omens for the Facebook IPO?

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg

The fun part of the story for folks in our business is trying to figure out who the sources for the story were. Commonly called a “tick tock” piece because it gives a kind of hour-by-hour account of the negotiations, it’s based off information from “sources familiar” with the situation. Whenever a competitor comes up with a great piece that no one else has, you try to figure out how.

Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, nailed it during her stint as guest host on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” this morning. It was probably someone on the Facebook board.

“When you read that story, someone fairly close in has said a lot,” she noted. Yes, there is irony here given Hewlett Packard history. (Check out the full “Squawk” conversation here).

Marc Andreessen, the Internet pioneer who is a member of the Facebook board and whose venture capital firm has a stake in Instagram, is prominently named in the article. That has some going “Hmmm…” as well.

Regardless of the specific “who,” the central question for potential Facebook investors would be “why.” Did someone on the Facebook board take offense as not being consulted about the Instagram deal and therefore leaked to the media? If so, it could be a sign of coming friction between the board and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Such conflict usually isn’t a good thing, especially if you think a board should act as a backstop to the CEO.

On the other hand, it could be taken as a sign that Facebook will keep its quick-moving start-up character, despite donning the trappings of a major corporate behemoth.

“It means the CEO of the company can go off on the weekend and spend $1 billion on an acquisition, virtually on his own. And some people might say, 'you know what? That’s actually a good thing, because if you look at the way the Internet works it’s a very fast-moving industry and you need to be able to move fast because the treats emerge very quickly,' ” said Spencer Ante, a WSJ deputy bureau chief and co-author of the article, during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” (See his full interview here)

The final call will obviously be up to investors when the Facebook IPO hits.


Allen Wastler is managing editor of Follow him on Twitter @AWastler. You can catch his commentary on CNBC Radio. And check out his fiction.