FACEBOOK co-creator Mark Zuckerberg has pocketed more than a billion US dollars – £630m – after one of the biggest US stock market flotations.
The social networking site’s shares rose by 5% early in their first day of trading after the listing valued the company at 104bn dollars (£66bn) – making it bigger than Amazon or Disney.
The sale of 421m shares at 38 US dollars (£24) each is thought to have netted up to 18.4bn dollars (£11.6bn) for the company.
Chief executive Mr Zuckerberg, who created the website in his Harvard University dorm room in 2004, sold about 30m shares, pocketing some 1.15bn US dollars (£724.6m).
He will retain a large stake in the company, making him worth an estimated 19.1bn US dollars – the 23rd richest person in the world at the age of 28.
One thousand millionaires are set to be created by the flotation, including a small number of the 100 London-based staff.
Trading began two days after massive interest in the sale prompted the company to boost the number of shares it planned to sell, with 84m more being added to the initial placing.
But the entire increase comes from insiders and early investors, so the company will not benefit from the additional sales.
Facebook board members Peter Thiel and James Breyer are among those selling more shares, but founder Mark Zuckerberg is not increasing the number he is selling.
Despite the hype, scepticism remains in some quarters, with murmurings that the stock is overvalued.
In a recent Bloomberg survey of 1,250 global investors, analysts and traders, 79% said Facebook’s valuation was not justified, with only 7% deeming the valuation fair.
Facebook’s mobile phone platform is thought to need improvement, while its effectiveness as an advertising space has also been debated.
These doubts were brought into sharp focus on Tuesday when General Motors, the US’s largest car manufacturer, said it would stop advertising on the site.
Facebook has more than 900m users who log in at least once a month, but it makes only a few dollars per year from each one, chiefly through advertising.
Analysts have expressed concern about its “almost pure reliance on advertising income.