Senior executives shed Facebook shares

By James Riches topicIcon Social Media

Chief operating officer among sellers

Last week saw the first opportunity for Facebook executives to sell their shares since the social network's much maligned stock market flotation in May, and it seems many were only too pleased to accept this opportunity.

Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg was arguably the most high-profile figure to wave goodbye to a large portion of her shares, moving on a total of around 353,000 last week.

Regulatory filings revealed she sold nearly 14,000 at $20.79 and a further 339,500 at a slightly higher $21.10, making herself a grand total of around $7.44 million. However, Ms Sandberg does still possess some $420 million of shares in the company.

It was also reported that chief accounting officer David Spillane made $5.4 million after selling 256,000 shares, while general counsel Ted Ullyot received $3.13 million from 149,000 unwanted shares.

Analysts had been keeping an eye on the situation as the restrictions on senior management selling shares drew to a close, but were made to wait a little longer as Hurricane Sandy forced the stock exchange in New York to close for two days.

Share sales could continue

Facebook has a further restriction on share activity in place which will expire on 14 November, so there may be yet more to come from this story as employees may be planning further outgoing shares.

As only senior management must disclose how much they have sold, there is no way to tell just how the company as a whole is responding to these deadline expirations.

One thing we do know for sure is that founder Mark Zuckerberg will not be selling any of his shares, after pledging to hold onto them for a full year as a way of reaffirming confidence in the company.

Facebook is still recovering from its disastrous dealings with the stock market in the spring, when shares opened at $38 but quickly plummeted to around half that amount.

Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "Many had predicted this would happen as soon as these lock-in expiry dates were announced, and of course there could be more to come once the second deadline arrives on 14 November. Mark Zuckerberg may be hanging onto his shares, but it seems others are not quite so prepared to make such a bold statement."