Twitter IPO to net Williams US$1b

NEW MONEY::Since the social networking site was developed within his startup, cofounder Evan Williams holds the largest stake in Twitter with nearly 57mn shares


Sun, Oct 06, 2013 - Page 13

The personal fortune of Twitter Inc cofounder Evan Williams probably will take up 10 characters once the online communications company goes public.

Williams, who was Twitter’s chief executive for two years until Dick Costolo took over in 2010, owns a 12 percent stake, making him the company’s largest shareholder. If Twitter turns out to be worth at least US$17.60 per share, the initial public offering (IPO) will make Williams a billionaire at 41 years old.

Williams, a Nebraska native who now lives in San Francisco, California, is likely to join the billion-dollar club because an outside appraisal of Twitter completed in August valued the company at US$20.62 per share, according to IPO documents unsealed on Thursday. At that price, Williams’ 56.9 million shares would be worth nearly US$1.2 billion.

San Francisco-based Twitter hopes to raise US$1 billion in an offer that is expected to be completed by late next month.

Williams owns such a large stake because Twitter was hatched within another startup called Odeo that he launched in 2005 after leaving a job at Google Inc. He had gone to work for Google after selling his first hit product, Blogger, to Google for an undisclosed amount in 2003.

Although Williams is no longer Twitter’s chief executive, he remains on the board of directors. Another board member, Peter Fenton, and his venture capital firm, Benchmark Capital, own a 6.7 percent stake.

Next in line with a 4.9 percent stake is Jack Dorsey, who came up for the idea for Twitter with Noah Glass and Biz Stone. The stakes of Glass and Stone are not listed in the IPO documents, meaning they do not own enough to warrant disclosures.

Other investors who own at least a 5 percent stake in Twitter include private investment firm Rizvi Traverse, which backed Hugh Hefner’s successful bid to take Playboy private, as well as Spark Capital, Benchmark Capital Partners and Union Square Ventures. DST Global, a London-based investment firm founded by Russian investor Yuri Milner, is another stakeholder. DST, which focuses its investments on Internet companies, was a pre-IPO investor in Facebook.

Costolo, a former improvisational comedian, owns a 1.6 percent stake in the company.

Many of Twitter’s 2,000 employees could become rich, too, but will not be allowed to sell their stock until Feb. 15 at the earliest.