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Thursday, August 9, 2012

FB : key Facebook executives exit at critical time

Since its poorly received IPO in May, the social-networking company has lost a handful of top-ranking executives. 

The latest defections came last week, when Ethan Beard, who is responsible for developing relationships with top app makers, and Katie Mitic, platform marketing director, announced pending departures. Jonathan Matus, mobile platform marketing manager, also is leaving.

The announcements come after the high-profile exits of chief technology officer Bret Taylor in June to start his own company, and Open Graph product manager Carl Sjogreen last month.

The loss of key mobile and marketing personnel, on the heels of a $157 million second-quarter loss, won't help Facebook shares, which have drooped to $20.72 -- nearly half of their $38 starting price. Questions about its online and mobile advertising business have led to a drop in the company's initial valuation to $43.5 billion, from $100 billion.

Shares may further decline when Facebook's first lockup period for stock ends Aug. 17, allowing employees and early investors to sell some of their shares. The talent drain underscores intense competition for employees in Silicon Valley, and the temptation for workers -- even those at Facebook -- to flirt with start-ups, where they can wield more influence, says social-media analyst Greg Sterling.

Start-up junkies get restless after a few years, says Sterling, noting that fledgling companies offer bigger potential salaries and greater long-term stock payoffs. This is not a time to lose top talent. That is Facebook's challenge.

We're fortunate to have many, many talented people join the company each week, and we believe this will serve us well over the long run, Facebook spokesman Larry Yu said in a statement.

But stock options don't appear to be enough to keep employees rooted at Facebook.

Beard worked at Facebook more than four years, and most of his stock options have likely vested. Four years is the customary amount of time for options to fully vest at Silicon Valley companies. Mitic has been at Facebook only two years; Matus, one.

Both are likely to have received stock before Facebook's IPO. It's possible they're betting Facebook's stock will not rise so steeply the next year or two that they'd be leaving serious cash on the table.

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