Is It Time for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to Step Aside as CEO?

Mark Zuckerberg may be a visionary, but with Facebook's stock hitting new lows on a daily basis, it may be time for the company to find new leadership.

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Kimihiro Hoshino / AFP / Getty Images

Facebook’s boy wonder CEO Mark Zuckerberg has always conveyed a certain disdain for Wall Street, donning his trademark hoodie instead of the traditional suit and tie during the company’s pre-IPO road show, and leaving investors wondering if he was even going to make an appearance on the conference call presenting the company’s first quarter of earnings as a public company. (He did, reading stiffly from a script and answering only a couple of questions.)

Zuckerberg may be a visionary, but visionaries don’t always make great CEOs. And with Facebook’s stock hitting new lows on a daily basis, many Wall Street observers are suggesting that Zuckerberg needs to start acting like a real CEO, and fast — or step aside and leave the job to someone who doesn’t mind wearing (and being) a suit.

On Seeking Alpha, Wall Street Strategies head Charles Payne mocked Zuck’s awkward performance on the conference call, which he called “excruciating.”

[I]t sounded like he was wearing a shirt and tie and hoodie at the same time. Image isn’t important at this point. You can be ordained the next Steve Jobs but as some point you must deliver.

On Forbes, Nathan Vardi echoed this last sentiment, suggesting that “[s]taying focused on the long-term is a laudable goal, but you need to eat before you can dream.”

Other observers aren’t willing to give Zuckerberg another chance. Reuters contributor John Abell is blunt: With most of Facebook’s public shares held by individual investors, he argues, “[t]he masses need a hero. That hero is not Mark Zuckerberg. He needs to get out of the way.”

Abell is cognizant of Zuckerberg’s genius in transforming Facebook from a dorm-room project to the massive company and cultural force it is today:

Facebook needs its spiritual leader and chief innovator in a hoodie. But it doesn’t need him as CEO, placating investors in a collared shirt. There are plenty of people who could manage the Facebook business. But there’s only one Mark, who needs to focus on product strategy, not investor relations. …

The challenge … is for Facebook to satisfy the Street as best it can under intense scrutiny, while continuing to innovate so that it extends its reputation as a game-changer … Some people can keep these two plates spinning, but that’s a rare combination.

It’s time for him to step aside as CEO, Abell argues, as Bill Gates so famously did, and as Google’s Larry Page did for a time as well. (Though not happily.)

But Zuckerberg has his defenders. On CNet, Charles Cooper dismisses the recent Facebook stock selloff as a Wall Street “hissy fit,” complaining that “Wall Street’s obsessed with the next quarter and Facebook’s thinking about next year.” He compares Zuckerberg to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who has regularly taken flak for spending so much on infrastructure — all while building his company into an online retailing behemoth.

Cooper suggests that, like Bezos, the embattled Zuckerberg is

a big boy and presumably has grown a thick enough skin to ignore the investing class’ periodic tantrums. He’s brought Facebook this far. No reason why he can’t lead it to bigger things in the future — if he stays true to himself.

On PandoDaily, Sarah Lacy suggests that all the talk about Zuckerberg’s talents as a visionary ignores his accomplishments as a hands-on CEO. “How do you think Facebook got to this size?” Lacy asks.

Eight years of Zuckerberg being “a spiritual leader,” riding around Menlo Park on a magic carpet, chanting? No. He was hiring and firing until he found a solid executive team to back up his weaknesses. He was making intense judgment calls in light of multiple user and employee uprisings. He was saying no to $1 billion acquisitions that would have made him richer than most people could ever imagine. … Those are things a CEO does. And Zuckerberg did them better than anyone else of this generation.

Moreover, Lacy notes, Facebook already has a Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, who adeptly complements Zuckerberg’s various abilities (and lack thereof).

All this may be true, but once a company goes public, the CEO has to at least pretend to care about Wall Street. Yes, Facebook should be more concerned about the long term than about daily stock market gyrations. But in the long run, the stock price matters. If Zuckerberg hates dealing with Wall Street, and can’t learn to at least feign an interest in what Wall Street cares about, why not give up that particular job to someone else? He’s got a controlling interest in the company, so even if he gives up the title he can still make the tough decisions that Lacy lauds him for. And he can keep wearing the hoodie.

22 comments
Che Mongo Stradivari
Che Mongo Stradivari

Bottomline it's really Facebook that needs to disappear or morph into something more useful ....  and less predatory. Mark Zuckerberg was just the carnival barker who, with the help of myopic venture capitalists, birthed this over-valued and over-hyped monstrosity.

Visionary? Give the people a break. Zuckerberg did not invent the mouse trap

(read that social media). He just found a way, by hook and by crook, to cobble together a bigger, more bloated mouse-trap than Friendster and MySpace. (Che Mongo Stradivari)

JonCrane
JonCrane

F**k the investors! They bought the ticket now they have to take the ride, if they don't like it they should sell their shares.

Facebook should have never been forced to go public in the first place. Once a company goes public, it goes from a commercial project that is trying to accomplish a goal, make a product or provide a service, and becomes entirely focused on making money for its investors at the expense of everything else. 

Facebook was not "in trouble" until it went public. It was just fine - great, even -- when all it was trying to do was build the worlds best social media network and keep its people paid while doing it.  But now it has a squalling parasites that it was legally required to take on board who don't care anything about what the company is actually trying to do. 

Zuckerberg was right to structure the IPO in a way that they can be safely ignored. And its a power he should use until it no longer is best for what Facebook's goals. 

The law clearly needs to be changed so that companies can choose to go public if/when it is the best thing for that company and its goals.

Top Scientist
Top Scientist

 Forced? Nobody forces anyone to go public, half-wit.

Mike
Mike

Investors are being fooled by foolbook. LOL suckers.

AD_Rtr_OS
AD_Rtr_OS

A change at Facebook?

Isn't Steve Jobs available?

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

The worst thing Facebook ever did was go public.  It will kill the brand.

Then again, that may be the best thing for the rest of the world.

remyr
remyr

Wow...are you doing a repeat in history...doing a Steve Jobs..to be clear, treat him like how steve was treated years ago...remove him as CEO, then board,..then take the company he created and love because they thought they could do better..and where did Apple end (and the stocks) after that???

Ronald Cone
Ronald Cone

Going into the IPO Zuckerberg and the others running the show at Facebook had to know they didn't have a business model that would produce a profit for some time, if ever.  If they're lucky their shares will be worth something after the 90 day waiting period before they can sell.  This was a classic pump amp; dump from the beginning.  I feel sorry for the investors that got Zuckered, but if you're going to be an investor even a little due diligence would have kept you away from this disaster.

ChrisIK
ChrisIK

This is incredibly stupid and embarressing to read, that people suggest Mark should step aside from CEO. The cloths he wears first off has absolutely nothing to do with the way he runs the company. It doesn't present a lack of anything. Also, if Mark had not been CEO to begin, then I am positive the company would not have ever thought they would have a chance to be valued at 100 billion THAT fast. Yes, it is less than half that amount at the moment, but a 50 billion dollar company is still very good, and like everyone said, SEVERAL other companies had encountered trouble, with the public assuming they were going to be done completely. Just like with Jeff Bezoz as mentioned, but obviously even after making all those mistakes, Bezoz has a 21 Billion dollar net worth and Amazon is one of the most successful online selling websites ever. So everyone thinking Mark should step aside as CEO are completely wrong, because he is the reason that the company reached its highest point, plus he is the founder of the company, so he deserves to chose what posititon he desires. Basically, no one understands facebook as well as mark so no one is as fit to be the head of the company except for him. He does have some flaws I must admit in the aspect of authority, as he does like to have a lot of power, but which CEO is flawless anyways.  

Micarl
Micarl

And Wall St always show everyone else such respect. If Amazon and Apple paid such heed to the investing class, there companies would not be bear where they are. John Scully was a Wall St. darling, wore very snazzy suits, walked and talked like a CEO, had hedge fund neighbors and everything Wall St adores about CEO's the problem is he didn't know what he was doing.

jimmy kraktov
jimmy kraktov

Wearing a suit doesn't make you a different person, or a better one. You're suggesting that the guy should be a phony? He lives in the real world. As long as his clothes are clean and he doesn't smell bad, he should be left alone.

"Clothes make the man" may be a snappy marketing slogan for the fashion industry, but they can also make you look like someone you're not. I've known a lot of them. They're called 'phonies' !!

Jardin J
Jardin J

And not wearing a suit doesn't make you a cool, non-conformist. It makes you inappropriately for a business meeting. 

mbcls
mbcls

next time you go to a wedding, i suggest you tell your friend first that you will be wearing t-shirt and short! 

27
27

Things are done a certain way for a reason.  Not wearing the suit basically means he think he's above wearing a suit, that his way is better.  Not wearing a suit shows a lack of respect, and when you're losing money, well... not showing respect isn't a great thing to be doing.

jimmy kraktov
jimmy kraktov

 Do you think that the late Steve Jobs would have made more money, or be taken more seriously had he dressed in a suit and tie?

His attire was his image, and he made billions. Wearing a suit isn't going to make any difference to how Mark Zuckerberg progresses in the business world. How you dress is your own personal statement. People who think that he's showing disrespect for the business world and those in it are phonies.

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

Steve Jobs dressed like a preppie, was always neat and well spoken.  Zuck dresses like a hood and can't be in front of an audience worth a damn (not unexpected in a guy whose product specializes in keeping friends and family behind a computer screen instead of in front of you).  The former conveyed a certain style that is better received by the kinds of people who will actually INVEST.  It also helps when the spin machine is working to bury the lows (like the infamous Mac Cube) and keep pushing people to newer heights of brand frenzy with a variety of different products.

Zuck has one product.  It isn't what he advertised and did the equivalent of a bait and switch by changing the reports just before the IPO.  It was legal, of course, but extremely bad PR.  All the signs are that, while it has a lot of users,  it's on the decline in many ways.  He comes across badly, he presents badly and he doesn't do anything close to projecting the confidence that Jobs did.

That does not engender investor confidence.  For any company to make it on Wall Street, investor confidence is paramount.  Jobs could give them that.  Zuck hasn't and based on what I've seen of him, can't - even in an Armani suit.  As CEO, he an AWFUL image for the company to attract investors.

Try reading behind the obvious for the reality for a change.

mbcls
mbcls

Mark Zuckerberg is no Steve Jobs, that' the problem!

and when you dont show respects, wall street will punish you!

try going to court wearing t-shirt and short to see what happen!

smooth edward
smooth edward

Nothing worse than money-obsessed Wall Street-types losing money. It’s like removing their hearts. Zuckerberg sold his shares early and made a killing.