Sunday, October 6, 2013

Many Win in Offering, but Some Are Off List

A public filing Thursday listed some of Twitter’s biggest winners — five investment firms and a host of board members and current and former executives — that own sizable stakes in the company. But missing from the filing were two co-founders, several investors who took a chance on a scrappy young start-up with no business model and a few who were cautious in Twitter’s early years and threw the proverbial lottery ticket away.

Among the more obvious winners listed were Evan Williams, who co-founded the company seven years ago. With a 12 percent stake worth about $1.2 billion based on Twitter’s most recent valuation of its shares, he is Twitter’s largest shareholder. Jack Dorsey, another co-founder and Twitter’s chairman, owns just under 5 percent of the company, worth about $483 million.

Missing from the filing entirely was Biz Stone, who co-founded Twitter with Mr. Williams and Mr. Dorsey in 2006 and left the company in 2011. Mr. Stone, two people close to the company say, sold many of his early shares and could end up earning just 1 percent of Mr. Williams’s windfall. Noah Glass, the company’s oft-forgotten fourth co-founder, was also absent. Well-known investors like venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, who bet his own money on Twitter in its early days, also did not make the cut.

That’s not to say that people not named in Thursday’s filing don’t stand to make, in many cases, millions of dollars when Twitter starts selling its shares. The Securities and Exchange Commission requires that companies list only investors that own more than 5 percent stakes, as well as compensation for top executives.

The biggest winner among venture capital firms listed in the filing is Benchmark Capital, which owns more than 6 percent of the company and stands to make as much as a billion-dollar return on a check the firm wrote in 2009 when Twitter was still a 25-employee company.

Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital, which invested in Twitter’s earliest rounds, have both hung on to more than a 5 percent stake in the company. Twitter eventually became Spark’s largest investment.

According to the filing, DST Global, the investment firm founded by the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, has managed to accumulate more than 5 percent of Twitter since it first invested two years ago.

Perhaps the most surprising name among Twitter’s biggest shareholders was Suhail Rizvi, a little-known Hollywood investor who has quietly built up more than a 5 percent stake in Twitter through his private equity firm Rizvi Traverse Management.

Mr. Rizvi, whose clients include Richard Branson, was first introduced to Twitter in 2010 through a long-time friend and early Twitter investor, Chris Sacca. Mr. Sacca, the founder of Lowercase Capital, approached him about buying an employee’s equity. That employee turned out to be Mr. Williams, who had left the company in October 2010 and wanted to sell around 10 percent of Twitter. Mr. Rizvi agreed to pay somewhere north of $300 million, according to someone familiar with Rizvi Traverse Management who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Rizvi continued to invest directly from employees on behalf of his clients, investing around $300 million on behalf of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia and $400 million for JPMorgan Chase.

Mr. Andreessen, a co-founder of Netscape, made a personal investment in Twitter in 2007, two years before he started his venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz with Ben Horowitz. In 2011, the firm invested $80 million in Twitter after buying shares in secondary markets. The investment, which valued Twitter at around $4 billion even though it was still losing money, was criticized by other venture capitalists on Sand Hill Road, who believed Mr. Andreessen and his partners thought too highly of Twitter.

Alexandra Stevenson reported from New York.

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