Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Facebookers Start Cashing Out Up to 20 Percent of Shares With New $100 Million Investment

[UPDATED: With news that employees can sell up to 20 percent of their shares.]

According to sources close to the situation, current and former employees of Facebook are now going to be able to sell up to 20 percent of their common shares.

It is part of a $100 million add-on investment in the social networking company by the Russian investors who recently put $200 million into the company for preferred shares.

That investment a month ago by Digital Sky Technologies was valued at $10 billion, since those shares have various special rights, depending on what was negotiated.

The new tender offer by DST values the company at $6.5 billion for the common shares, or $14.77 a share. The last common share valuation of the company was around $4 billion.

The move has been expected for Facebook employees since DST made its first investment.

It will allow them to monetize shares, since the company is not likely to go public for at least a year or more.

Employees have 20 days to decide to take the offer or not and can only sell up to 20 percent of their stock–in other words, they cannot cash out completely.

“I can afford a down payment on a house now,” said one longtime employee, who is typical of many. “But not a really big house.”

But the top leadership of Facebook, such as CEO Mark Zuckerberg or COO Sheryl Sandberg, are not eligible to sell shares.

Facebook confirmed the DST investment, with a statement from Zuckerberg:

“While individuals must make their own decisions about participating in this program, I’m pleased that the price DST is offering is much greater than the price originally considered last fall. This is recognition of Facebook’s growth and progress towards making the world more open and connected.”

If fully accepted by those employees eligible, it will give DST 1.54 percent more of Facebook, for a total of 3.5 percent of the company.

That makes DST–based in London and Moscow–one of the bigger Facebook investors, with a stake larger than one owned by Microsoft (MSFT).

The software giant invested $250 million in Facebook for preferred shares in 2007, but the valuation was then $15 billion. That huge figure was due to a competing bid from archrival Google (GOOG) at the time.

In any case, neither DST nor Microsoft got a board seat or “special observer rights” in return for its money.

Here’s a video interview I did with one of DST’s top execs, Alexander Tamas, along with Sandberg, right after it made its first investment in May, while both were attending the seventh D: All Things Digital conference:

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik