Facebook founder to make $100m school gift – report

2010-09-23 07:50

New York – Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg will donate $100 million (about R700 million) to the troubled public school system in Newark, New Jersey, the New York Times reported.

The donation was to be announced on the Oprah show, the report said.

The Times said the gift would be the first instalment in an education endowment to be started by Zuckerberg.

It would be by far the largest publicly known gift by Zuckerberg, whose fortune was estimated last year by Forbes magazine at $2 billion.

The gift is many times larger than any the system has received before, and amounts to one-eighth of the $800 million annual operating budget.

It was not yet clear how the money would be used, or over what period of time.

The Times said the gift would be made with the condition of giving back some control of the school system to the mayor of the city, Cory Booker.

The state currently runs the system in the troubled city.

The report said Zuckerberg has no connection to Newark, but in July he and Booker met at a conference and began a conversation about the mayor’s plans for the city.

Facebook declined to comment on the report, responding to an AFP inquiry with a one-sentence email message saying “We don’t have anything to announce”.

Zuckerberg’s act of public generosity would come a week ahead of the October 1 release of The Social Network film, a Hollywood take on the birth of Facebook that casts a harsh light on its founder.

Promises of elitism, geekdom, betrayal and greed are fuelling anticipation for the film and early reviews have mentioned the potential for it to be a contender in the Academy Awards.

Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg have not sanctioned the film, which is based on the book The Accidental Billionaires and is directed by David Fincher, who won an Oscar nomination for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

The film takes viewers back to Harvard, where Zuckerberg was a student with dazzling computer skills who didn’t fit in at the status conscious elite university.

The screenplay, written by Aaron Sorkin, creator of hit television series The West Wing, opens with Zuckerberg as a 19-year-old Harvard student who has trouble even making eye contact, according to a draft circulating on the internet.

In the film, a clearly brilliant but socially off-key Zuckerberg is dumped by his girlfriend and takes refuge in his computer, setting in motion the disputed events leading to the creation of Facebook in 2004.

“The movie might be a sign that Facebook has become meaningful to people – even if the movie is fiction,” the Palo Alto, California-based company said in response to an AFP query.

“What the movie may or may not contain is not what we’re focused on. What matters more is building a useful, innovative service that people enjoy using to connect and share.”

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