Facebook (FB) stock: Mark Zuckerberg, is he to blame for Facebook's slumping stock?

(CNN) -- Mark Zuckerberg is not in danger of losing his job, but that doesn't mean he can brush off recent criticism of his leadership.

Facebook has had a rough first three months as a public company. The social network's stock has performed poorly since going public in May, and on Monday morning it dropped to an all-time low of $18.75 -- less than half of the company's initial share price of $38.

Investors are looking to place blame for the disappointing performance, and the obvious target is Zuckerberg, the company's founder and chief executive. The 28-year-old casual-wear enthusiast built Facebook from a dorm-room project into a publicly traded company with 900 million monthly users that saw $3.7 billion in revenue and $1 billion in profits last year.

But since the stock slumped again this week, some critics have openly questioned whether Facebook's boy-wonder CEO has the maturity necessary to navigate the corporate world. In a much-repeated quote that reflected the divide between buttoned-down Wall Street and laid-back startup culture, one analyst wondered if Zuckerberg "is in over his hoodie."

"He is a brilliant guy. He is the visionary behind this company. But ... what he is not is CEO material," Newsweek columnist Joanne Lipman told CNN this week.

Now Zuckerberg is tasked with rebuilding confidence among investors and employees. And some analysts said they think he should start by speaking up about what, exactly, Facebook is up to.

"It's his responsibility; it is his obligation to deal with investors," said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities. "I'm not sure he cares enough, and I think the management is going to do what the CEO tells them to do."

The shift from coder to investor-relations manager might not come naturally to Zuckerberg, who has repeatedly emphasized that Facebook was not started as a company, and its goal is to focus on the product before profit.

"We don't build services to make money; we make money to build better services," he said in a letter to investors before going public.

But since its initial public offering, the company has been slow to introduce major new products.

One cause of the company's stock troubles, according to Pachter, is that it changed its strategy between its IPO and the first earnings call, significantly increasing operating costs. The vast majority of Facebook's revenue comes from advertising, but the company hasn't explained in detail what it's spending its new revenue on, and how or when those investments will translate into increased profits.

A lack of transparency can create uncertainty, which causes people who own the stock to sell and people who are inclined to buy the stock to wait until they have more information, Pachter said.

"Investors don't know how to think about Facebook, most likely because they don't use it," said Brian Solis, an analyst at Altimeter Group, who speculates that typical investors are more likely to be on LinkedIn. He agrees that more communication from Zuckerberg is needed to give investors faith.

Even shareholders who fully understand Facebook's business model are jumping ship. The company's morale was dealt a huge blow this week when venture capitalist Peter Thiel, a board member and early Facebook investor, unloaded the majority of his shares, bringing the amount of money he's made off the company to more than $1 billion.

Loss of confidence by shareholders exacerbates Wall Street's other major concern -- that Facebook issued too many shares to begin with. Facebook's lockup periods -- rules that prevent early investors and employees from selling stock for a set amount of time following an IPO -- are starting to expire, allowing people such as Thiel to sell.

"The lockups are expiring too soon; the market is just not prepared to absorb this many shares," Pachter said.

Facebook employees aren't able to sell their stocks just yet, but if Zuckerberg can't instill confidence in Facebook soon, they could add to the problem by selling off their shares as soon as it's allowed later this year. For now, they are powerless to do anything but watch while the value of their stock tumbles.

Sagging morale can have a negative impact on every aspect of running a business, including employee recruiting and retention. According to The Wall Street Journal, Zuckerberg addressed employees' concerns in a meeting in August, saying he understands it may be "painful" for them to watch the value of the stock drop.

"He focuses on shipping and user experience. He gives his employees a mission to believe in," said Solis, who favorably compares Zuckerberg's strategy to that of Steve Jobs, another tech-company founder who focused on products above investors. That leadership approach turned out pretty well for Apple.

But Zuckerberg is not leading the company on his own. He has surrounded himself with experienced Silicon Valley and business veterans, including Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who previously worked at Google

and for the U.S. Treasury Department.

Publicly, Zuckerberg is keeping his head down while Facebook works to address other issues, such as its challenges making money on mobile users. On Thursday, the company rolled out updates to its mobile iPad and iPhone apps, which are significantly speedier than the previous versions. Also, the company's purchase of Instagram was approved by the Federal Trade Commission this week, which will allow Facebook to focus even more on mobile products.

Despite some speculation in the media about whether he might step down, Zuckerberg's job is safe. He has job security primarily because he smartly owns 20.7% of Facebook's stock and has a 57% voting stake in the company. Many investors also recognize how integral his image and leadership are to the Facebook brand, and they are still willing to give him a chance.

"He has not proven his lack of ability and he has not yet proven his ability," Pachter said. "So let's give him a few more quarters and see what he does."

 
 ™ & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Print this article Back to Top

Comments

Read more

#Whoshoveledthefinishline: Boston Marathon finish line shoveled during blizzard #Whoshoveledthefinishline: Boston Marathon finish line shoveled during blizzard

Boston got nearly 2 feet of snow Tuesday, but not an inch remains on the Boston Marathon finish line.

2015 Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial “Lost Dog” unveiled on YouTube 2015 Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial “Lost Dog” unveiled on YouTube

"Budweiser unveils the commercial that will make you cry on Super Bowl Sunday," headlined USA Today.

UPS driver tosses package, urinates on house (VIDEO) UPS driver tosses package, urinates on house (VIDEO)

A seasonal delivery driver for UPS is out of a job after being caught on home surveillance video damaging a package and urinating on the side of a Houston, Texas house.

Ryan Ferguson: Wrongfully imprisoned man gets free trip to Super Bowl Ryan Ferguson: Wrongfully imprisoned man gets free trip to Super Bowl

A ticket agency heard his story and offered him a free trip to Sunday's big game.

Snowstorm sasquatch? Yeti roams streets of Boston suburb during storm Snowstorm sasquatch? Yeti roams streets of Boston suburb during storm

The monster storm in Boston has brought with it another monster — a yeti.

Fans call to #BoycottHershey after import ban of British chocolate Fans call to #BoycottHershey after import ban of British chocolate

Chocolate buffs are clamoring for the Hershey Co. to "gimme a break" after the chocolate manufacturer reached a settlement with an importer to stop distributing British-made candy bars.

Brazilian police searching for stolen goods find 2 war tanks Brazilian police searching for stolen goods find 2 war tanks

Brazilian police say a raid to recover stolen cars and cargo came up with a more interesting find: two war tanks.

New puppy surprise causes overwhelming joy (VIDEO) New puppy surprise causes overwhelming joy (VIDEO)

A priceless reaction occurred when a mom surprised her two children with a new puppy.
 

Rancho Valencia, The Lodge at Sea Island: U.S. News picks best hotels for 2015 Rancho Valencia, The Lodge at Sea Island: U.S. News picks best hotels for 2015

Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa took the top U.S. spot in U.S. News & World Report's fifth annual "Best Hotels of 2015" list.

Instagram Tops Twitter Instagram Tops Twitter

First, Facebook was the "it" girl of social media. Then, Twitter came into the spotlight and now Instagram has officially topped Twitter in popularity. The List's Ariel Wesler talks to social media expert, Chris Kline (ABC15) about the major shift and what to expect in 2015. See the full story now, on The List!