His popular image is antisocial, cold, calculating, and charmless. He's faced scores of lawsuits, accusing him of poaching ideas and tricking investors. In a 2010 Oscar-winning movie, he was the inspiration for an entirely new kind of nebbishy villain. But in addition to being the richest American under 30, Mark Zuckerberg is also the country's most beloved chief executive.
At least according to Glassdoor.com. The site collects company reviews, and says that Zuckerberg, 28, received a 99 percent approval from the nearly 400 Facebook employees who chose to rate him. That's a 14-points jump from last year.
Yet in many ways, it's been a rough year for Zuckerberg. He was widely charged with bungling his company's initial public offering last May, as the value of its shares fell from $38 to around $25 within a month. The price plunge sparked over 50 investor lawsuits, reports Reuters, and a class action suit is currently in the works.
But Zuckerberg is clearly doing something right, and one of those things is knowing what he's done wrong. According to a New York Times profile last year, Zuckerberg has deftly surrounded himself with people who have the skills that he lacks. His advisers include Bill Gates, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, Washington Post chairman and CEO Donald Graham, and his No. 2 at Facebook and expert "leaner," Sheryl Sandberg.
Employees praise Facebook's 'startup' culture. Despite recently celebrating its ninth birthday, making Facebook an old stalwart of Silicon Valley, the company has managed to largely maintain its startup culture, according to employee reviews on Glassdoor.com. Engineers rave about the freedom they're given, their power to make an individual impact, the whiplash pace of innovation, as well as the company's famously fun-time atmosphere.
"An open community from Zuck on down," one Facebook employee wrote on Glassdoor.com. "Mutual trust companywide and sense of community and drive, instilled by our CEO, who we all truly respect."
The boss has vision. And over the last year, the Zuck has proven his ability to lead. According to reports, he negotiated the purchase of the photo app Instragram largely on his lonesome. And while the $1 billion price tag -- for a company that had no revenue -- raised at least a billion eyebrows, there seemed to be an underlying faith that Zuckerberg could see potential where others could not. His board, The New York Times reported, put up no resistance to the deal.
"[The] vision of management and Mark Zuckerberg [is] to prioritize long term goals over short term ones," writes a Facebook project manager on Glassdoor.com.
And perhaps that's what really sets Zuckerberg apart from other CEOs. Facebook users have come to embrace many of the features that sparked fury on first release, like diminished privacy, the mini-feed, and face recognition. Zuckerberg played the long game; he didn't just revolutionize online sharing, he revolutionized our attitude toward it.
The man doesn't care what you think. While many CEOs are more inclined to the quick buck, Zuckerberg's indifference to money "is almost pathological," Time wrote in its 2010 Person of the Year profile. Perhaps he is so liked, because his motives seem pure. As Zuckerberg told the magazine: "I just want to focus on what we're doing."
More than anything, Zuckerberg has nailed the fundamental secret to popularity: Not caring whether you're popular. Certainly, Zuckerberg didn't become a success because he was the guy everyone wanted at the party. In her recent book, "Lean In," Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recounts a piece of advice Zuckerberg gave her after six months on the job:
"Sheryl, you care too much about being liked. You are trying to please everyone all day long and you can't do it. And if you never say anything that anyone disagrees with, you're not going to say anything at all."
It turns out, people like what Zuckerberg has to say.
The Faces of Facebook
The Most Popular CEO In America Is ... Who??
Title: Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Facebook Age: 28
The Back Story: As a 12-year old, Zuckerberg created an instant messaging system a full year before AOL introduced Instant Messenger. Before going off to college, Zuckerberg created a music-predicting software resembling Pandora that was called Synapse. He turned down jobs offers from AOL and Microsoft choosing instead to attend Harvard. The story of his dropping out of Harvard his sophomore year to launch Facebook would of course become the subject of the 2010 feature film, The Social Network.
Title: Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Age: 42
How Rich: Sandberg was the highest paid Facebook employee in 2011 with a total compensation of $30.87 million. She also reportedly owns .1 percent of the company she joined in 2008, and stands to gain 39.3 million shares after the IPO, should result in an eventual take of about $1.44 billion. (She had 1.9 million before.) But however much she makes out, she'll still be lagging behind Oprah, whose net worth stands at $2.7 billion, according to Forbes.
The Back Story: Sandberg, who previously led the online sales division for Google, is widely credited with making Google Adwords profitable. The two met at a Silicon Valley Christmas party back in 2007, and upon meeting Sandberg, Zuckerberg started a full court press to hire her from Google. The courting process included six weeks of dinners at Sandberg's Palo Alto home, because Zuckerberg's apartment had no furniture. Since joining Facebook, she's credited with discreetly inserting advertising on the website that doesn't crowd the social network. And under her leadership, the company began reporting a profit in 2010. She's also the highest ranking women at Facebook, whose board is composed entirely of white men.
How Rich: As of March, Saverin's net worth was estimated to be $2 billion, according to Forbes. At the IPO, he owns 5 percent of Facebook. He's also made early investments in Jumio, the online and mobile payment product.
The Back Story: As an undergrad at Harvard, the Brazilian-born Saverin made $300,000 betting on oil and weather futures. Among all the friends and acquaintances with a business background Zuckerberg allegedly sought out Saverin because of his tendency to wear business suits to class, among other reasons, suggesting a sharp financial acumen. Saverin pushed for early commercialization of Facebook, and this was the source of the fighting made famous in The Social Network. After opting against going out to California for the first summer, he eventually was ousted from the company. He sued Facebook and Zuckerberg after his 34.4 percent ownership of the company reportedly was diluted. While the terms of the settlement were not disclosed, his position on the masthead as a co-founder was restored after the litigation.
Interesting Fact: Shortly ahead of the IPO, it was announced that Saverin has renounced his U.S. citizenship, causing speculation that the move was motivated by tax reasons. He's currently living in Singapore.
Title: Co-Founder of Facebook Age: 28
How Rich: Hughes is said to own one percent of Facebook, which was estimated at more than $600 million pre-IPO, according to Forbes.
Back Story: Hughes met Zuckerberg while the two were living together in the Kirkland residential House at Harvard. He served as the company's first spokesman, and pitched product ideas, such as suggesting that each college have its own network on Facebook when the site expanded beyond Harvard. Also, while at Facebook, Hughes worked with Il.-Senator Barack Obama to create his first fan page. In 2008, he left Facebook to lead the social media efforts for Obama's presidential campaign. This year, he bought The New Republic.
Title: Co-Founder of Facebook; Co-Founder of Asana Age: 27
How Rich: Zuckerberg's roommate at Harvard, he was the site's first programmer and first chief technology officer. He reportedly owns 7.6 percent of Facebook. His net worth was estimated by Forbes this March to be $3.5 billion.
The Back Story: A programming whiz like Zuckerberg, Moskowitz was Facebook's first chief of technology, and helped construct the first website, as well as the original mobile platforms. He left the company in 2008 to launch Asana, which he hopes will be to the working world what Facebook is to social networking.
The Back Story: Before Sean Parker became a part of the Facebook family, he was joined by friend Shawn Fanning in starting the controversial file-sharing service Napster. After seeing his roommate's girlfriend using a website called thefacebook.com, he reached out to Zuckerberg to join the team back in 2004. He pioneered the website's first photo-sharing program. Parker was forced out of Facebook's ranks when he was arrested in 2005 for suspicion of possessing cocaine at a party he was hosting in North Carolina. (Charges were eventually dropped.)
Interesting Fact: It was Parker who encouraged Zuckerberg to drop the "the" from the title, and to not return to Harvard.
Title: Director of Engineering of Facebook Age: 29
How Rich: Net worth unknown at time of IPO.
The Back Story: Andrew "Boz" Bosworth was Zuckerberg's teaching assistant in artificial intelligence the semester he created Facebook. After graduating from Harvard he worked for two years as developer for Microsoft, before joining Facebook in 2005. He oversaw the launch of News Feed back in 2006.
Interesting Fact:Bosworth is in charge of initiating new employees at Facebook through a "boot camp," which introduces all new employees to the company's computer code and culture.
Title: Angel Investor of Facebook; President of Clarium Capital Age: 44
How Rich: Thiel reportedly owns 2.5 percent of Facebook. He made an initial investment of $500,000 in the social network. His pre-IPO net worth was pegged by Forbes to be $1.5 billion in March.
The Back Story: He co-founded PayPal in 1998, and became the first major investor for Facebook after agreeing to Zuckerberg's demand of having majority control over the company at the board. As an outspoken libertarian and donor to the presidential campaigns of Ron Paul, Thiel was drawn to Zuckerberg's mission to "make the world more open."
Title: Chief Financial Officer of Facebook Age: 42
How Rich: Ebersman reportedly owns .1 percent of Facebook at the time of the IPO. His total compensation last year was reported to be $18.7 million.
The Back Story:Ebersman was hired in 2009 to oversee the IPO, and he has met privately with outside private investors to help them craft individual deals as opposed to opening up a pitch process. This is a marked contrast with the usual practice of opening up a bidding.
Title: Director of Engineering of Facebook Age: 36
How Rich: He reportedly owns 0.11 percent of the company and said to have been paid $24.7 million last year (Most of which was in stock.)
The Back Story: As the Chief Technology Officer at Sun Microsystems, he led the development of the Firefox web browser. He was hired by Facebook back in 2008 to oversee the company's 600 engineers. He regularly organizes the pizza-fueled overnight hackathons, where the only rule is that participants work on something they don't do for their day job.
Interesting Fact: He led the creation of the Comments plug-in, which allows to integrate Facebook's comments on their website.
Title: General Counsel of Facebook Age: 44
How Rich: Ullyot reportedly owns .1 percent of the company at the time of the IPO. His total compensation last year was said to be $675,000.
The Back Story: Ullyot had a storied career in Republican legal and corporate circles before joining Facebook in 2008. He had clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and was chief of staff to George W. Bush's attorney-general, Alberto Gonzalez. He also served as top lawyer for AOL Time Warner. He's currently leading Facebook's legal battle with Yahoo, as the two giants have sued each other over patent infringement.
Title: Vice President of Product, Facebook Age: 29
How Rich: Net worth unknown at time of IPO.
The Back Story: Cox dropped out of a grad school program for computer science at Stanford back in 2005 to join Facebook. He found out about the start-up through his roommate, who was an early employee. He was initially hesitant to join the team, thinking it wasn't a serious enough endeavor, but meetings with Moskovitz, among others, changed his mind. He worked with Bosworth to launch News Feed, and has also overseen hiring at Facebook. He's since become Zuckerberg's de facto chief of staff, working with the CEO on product development.
Title: Designer of Facebook; Co-Founder of JobSpice Age: 28
How Rich: Net worth unknown at time of IPO.
The Back Story: McCollum and Zuckerberg were enrolled in five courses together during their sophomore year at Harvard, most of which were in computer science. One day, McCollum received an IM from Zuckerberg asking him to design Facebook's logo, saying, "Who else is going to do it?" McCollum decided to design the first face of Facebook by drawing a sketch of actor Al Pacino. He stayed on at Facebook until 2006, and worked on the file-sharing program Wirehog, which never took off the way Zuckerberg hoped it would. After leaving Facebook, he went back to Harvard to finish his undergrad degree and complete a master's degree in education. He's also worked as an entrepreneur- in-residence at New Enterprise Associates and Flyridge Capital Partners.
Interesting Fact: McCollum and Zuckerberg attended a meeting with early investors Sequoia Capital wearing t-shirts and pajama bottoms.
Titles: The Founders of the Harvard Connection (later ConnectU) are now venture capitalists Age: 30
How Rich: Along with their friend Divya Narendra, the affluent brothers famously got $65 million in settling with Facebook over their charge of breach of contract. (They eventually gave up on their quest for a larger settlement.) They also each reportedly walked away with .22 percent ownership of Facebook.
The Back Story: Along with their friend Divya Narendra, the Winklevoss twins began developing an online social network in 2002. After shuffling through several programmers, they were referred to Zuckerberg, whom they met with in November of 2003 in the cafeteria at Kirkland House at Harvard. Zuckerberg went on to develop his own website after telling the twins he was helping them build theirs. In addition to pursuing legal recourse over the alleged breach of contract, the Winklevosses have graduated from Harvard and the Said Business School at Oxford. They've also competed in international rowing competitions.