Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Winklevoss Identity: never too rich

Before I begin, I should probably get a couple of things out there:

  1. I have yet to see The Social Network.
  2. I’m not much of a Facebook user.  I pretty much “friend” friends and family who ask, but that’s about it. (However, I am planning on asking my teenaged nieces to triage my FB presence.)
  3. I would not be quite as interested in this topic if the Winklevoss twins did not have such a great last name.
  4. And/or if the actor who portrayed the Winklevi in The Social Network was none other than Armie Hammer, scion of the Armand Hammer family, of Occidental Petroleum fame and fortune.

For those unfamiliar with the threads of the Winklevoss story, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who were at Fair Harvard with FB founder Mark Zuckerberg, reached a settlement with FB, Inc. a couple of years ago. Implicit in the settlement was the admission that theirs had been the original idea that spawned Zuckerberg’s vision of an online student-to-student social network.

At the time of the settlement – in 2008 – the twins agreed to accept $65M in cash and stock, and amount now worth about $170M, thanks to FB’s success.

That amount, unfortunately, is not enough for the Winklevoss twins, especially in light of how much their former classmate – i.e., the person who exploited the idea commercially – is worth.

Rich, as we know, if all relative to what the next guy has.

Thus, the $1M condo on Beacon Hill may look swank to someone living in wattle and daub hut, but to the condo dwellers, it’s a wattle and daub hut compared to the single-family mansion next door.

Thus, the Winklevoss twins are aggrieved.

It’s not enough that they came from a privileged background, graduated from Harvard, rowed in the Olympics. It’s not enough that each of them has the education, pedigree and social network that provides entry into the sorts of jobs that earn folks multi-million dollars a year.  It’s not enough that each of them must have cleared about $40-$50M each on the settlement, post-lawyers and give-backs to side parties who had a role. It’s not enough that most people would be overjoyed to have a net worth of one-tenth this magnitude, enabling them to live modestly but amply for the rest of their lives.

As long as – whine, whine, sniff, sniff – that meanie Mark Zuckerberg has a kazillion, $40M is petty cash, chump change, and insult. (I saw that idea first…)

So the Winklevoss twins went to court to see if they could have a do-over on their agreement to settle for that paltry $65M, even though it’s now grown to a somewhat less paltry $170M (or, as I’ve seen in one place, $200M). They claim that they were swindled, screwed, done-in by the original settlement, and that they’re entitled to four times the number of shares. Which, of course, everyone now knows are worth a boatload more.

Alas for the Winklevoss boys, an appellate court “rejected the Winklevoss brothers’ claims that the 2008 settlement should be voided because it was procured with fraud.”

In his decision, Judge Alex Kozinski wrote that the "Winklevosses are not the first parties bested by a competitor who then seek to gain through litigation what they were unable to achieve in the marketplace. … At some point, litigation must come to an end. That point has now been reached." (Source: Slate.)

Not to be denied, the Winklesvosses are now looking for a review of last week’s court ruling.

I sure hope that, if they lose again, they’re on the hook for court costs.

Anyway, it does appear as if, in 2008, the deal the Winklevoss twins agreed to was a good enough one.

Sure, if they knew then what they know now…

But how many times does that happen in life, and to how many people does it happen to? Note to the Winklevosses: the answer to both of these rhetorical questions is A LOT.

Who among us doesn’t want do overs?

The salary we accepted when we could have negotiated for more. The lowball project fee that you took thinking you could knock the work out quickly, only to find out you were making something only a few cents north of minimum wage.

And let’s not even get into the realm of personal do overs? Talk about carry me back to old Wor-ces-ter.

The Winklevoss twins turn 30 this year.

My advice to them is, as Ann Landers use to say, kwitcherbitchin.

Take the millions, count them – and your many blessings, and stop obsessing about Mark Zuckerberg’s billions.

Frankly, I don’t need to see the movie to appreciate what a bunch of a-holes all of these guys are.


Source for info, unless otherwise indicated: Huffington Post.


Anonymous said...

you would enjoy the movie...goes beyond the whole facebook phenom to touch upon broad issues, including class and connection/loneliness in the internet age.

I went in expecting little, and came away pleasantly surprised.

Anonymous said...

I hope they blow the whole kaboodle on legal fees.