Working the Room at Facebook’s Times Square Party

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David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Facebook Inc. 'like' logo is displayed on a sign at the entrance to company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.

Hey! Where is everyone?

I headed to Nasdaq headquarters in Times Square, ground zero of the biggest high tech stock offering ever, where Facebook would be welcomed into the arms of the investing public. And all I found was a bunch of CNBC cameras.

One block south, the corners at the intersection of the world were much busier than Nasdaq HQ as tourists and working stiffs waited for the traffic lights to change. In front of Toys R Us, Minnie Mouse and Elmo drew more photo-takers. Didn’t investors want to tell their grandchildren where they stood when Facebook became a public company?

Bloomberg TV gushed that the Facebook launch was like a New Year’s eve party. Those Bloomberg anchors need to get out a little more often.

I stood in front of the Nasdaq headquarters eyeing its gazillion-story high electronic sign and the blaring billboards over the entrance: Facebook-Nasdaq. Together at last!

The few people who stumbled by Nasdaq found themselves set upon by reporters. One passerby made the mistake of whipping out his cellphone to take a picture. As he walked away, I fell into step with him. Would he buy the stock? “Not the right economy,” he tossed over his shoulder.

Another gent heading to work, rolling luggage in one hand, paused and looked at the entryway. Long enough for me to lob my would-you-buy Facebook query? “Not at least for a year,” he smiled. “I want to see their first acquisitions.” Did he practice that answer?

A guy named Mike Sun stopped long enough to tell me his name and that he’s an equity analyst. Would he invest? Was it pricey? He had no idea. “I’m a chartist.” If the charts say “buy,” he buys.  So be it. Fundamentals, shmundamentals.

Then I chanced upon J.R. Amantea. Lucky me! A real-live Facebook IPO investor on his way to the office! Amantea says he got about 20% of the allotment he had requested through his  E*trade account and had been willing to pay up to about $40.  “I like the growth prospects,” Amantea said.

It just so happens that Amantea is an investment banker (he wouldn’t name the firm, but it’s not involved in the Facebook deal). Was he concerned about GM pulling out its advertising? Nope. Amantea and his family collect Corvettes so they are all fans of the GM Facebook page — which he says is random and unfocused. “It needs a different strategy.” So the fault, dear investor, didn’t lie with Facebook but with GM.

Soon, a pattern emerges. If you weren’t a reporter hanging around 43rd & Broadway, then odds are you were someone in finance passing by. Garyn Angel, a financial advisor from Tampa, Fla., was one such visitor. “I figured it would be crazy.”  He stood in front of the Nasdaq building texting clients that, no, they shouldn’t buy shares. “The little guy gets chewed up and spit out” on these deals.

Finally, a real live individual investor who had made this corner a true destination.  Why? Drum roll, please (this is where I get my quote):  “It’s a historical moment,” said Julie Redmon of Atlanta. Thank you! But she wouldn’t touch the stock, not until Facebook had filed more information about itself with the regulators. A paralegal, Redmond said she’s waiting for the 10Ks and 10Qs.  An investor who looks at the fundamentals. So what did she think about all the talking heads giving their two cents worth based on just the initial regulatory filings? “Everybody spoke with such conviction,” Redmond said. And she wondered: “Are you just saying this because it sounds good?”

As it turns out, Redmon is no neophyte investor. During the dot-com boom, she and her husband flipped a few of those babies. But they got out before they got burned. Caution is the byword for the couple. After all, they have a mortgage now.

Before departing, I join a small group of people watching a TV reporter do her thing and strike up a conversation with  Michael and Monica Babbitt (“like the Sinclair Lewis novel”) of Cleveland. They had decided to come to this very spot, but  not because of Facebook, per se. Mr. Babbitt is a huge fan of CNBC. Facebook stock? Feh. He doesn’t even use it. But he’s not going home without snagging a shot with the CNBC reporter on location. You know, whatshername.

And by the way, Facebook opened at $42 per share, half an hour late, and traded nearly as low as $38 — the IPO price.