Is The Writing On The Wall For Zuckerberg - Like Sorrell?

There can't be many businesspeople who have had a worse week than Mark Zuckerberg.

A midweek report revealed that user growth was flat and too low to get close to Wall Street expectations. Then the corporate record books were reset for the worst single-day performance of a stock on record.

Depending on who you believe, between 10% to 20% was already wiped off the value of the company in overnight trades -- and then, when trading opened yesterday, the company saw $119bn written off its value.

It is the first time a company has ever lost more than $100bn in one day. 

It would be easy to pinpoint the Cambridge Analytica scandal as the reason for Facebook dropping $100bn to be worth only a mere $500bn or so. It would also be fairly tempting to mention fake news, hate speech and potential interference in the US election by a foreign power. 

However, to do so would miss a key piece of evidence. In the middle of this week, Facebook shares were at an all-time high of around $218. So, something must have happened to see the shares drop to $176 in a day. That "thing" was the report on user growth.

Wall Street expectations were seriously missed and investors made their feelings known the moment trading opened the next day.

Sure, you could argue that user figures are down because of the aforementioned shortcomings Facebook is accused of -- so yes, they are undoubtedly playing a part in Zuckerberg's week from hell. However, they were still there before and they will still be here tomorrow.

The thing that changed was that the needle on growth has swung in the wrong direction.

It reminds me a lot of Sir Martin Sorrell. We all probably now privately know the accusations against him, which he and WPP are keeping tight-lipped about, at least publicly. Any failings, however, were likely to have been put up with for several years because the company was doing so well. The board at WPP has joked that many of its members found it surprising that they answered to the bombastic Sorrell rather than the other way round, as is the norm.

No, Sorrell found himself on the wrong end of a slide in value share as WPP shed around a third of its value in his final twelve months at the helm. Whatever it was the board had against him, or had on him, the action button wasn't hit until the City had raised the alarm bells on where the holding company, and arguably adland, was heading. 

The moral of the story is that a business can have issues and business leaders can have their failings, but it's only when the financial powers that be pass judgement that a board may be forced to take action.

However, with Facebook we have a very odd situation. Zuckerberg's shares are worth more votes than the average investor to the point where he has to pretty much sack himself to be removed.

The likely outcome? Rising tensions that would almost certainly not see him removed -- but how about a shift to Chairman, or some kind of a lifetime President, Founding Father role? That would be my bet.

You simply can't preside over the biggest one-day share slide in history and expect to turn up for work the next day as if nothing has changed. If he can't be sacked, I suspect he will be moved.

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