The stock market rout of 2022 has reduced the personal worth of plenty of tech billionaires, but none more than Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The founder of the company formerly known as Facebook, Zuckerberg has seen his net worth plummet by nearly $71 billion this year, according to calculations by Bloomberg. Zuckerberg, now 38, has slipped from No. 3 on the Forbes billionaires list last year to No. 22 today.
Blame the drop on the dizzying fall of Meta's stock, which holds the bulk of Zuckerberg's fortune. While the financial markets' tumble this year has deflated several tech billionaires' fortune by roughly a quarter, no one, not even crypto CEO Changpeng Zhao, has seen a wipeout on the scale of Zuckerberg.
Since Facebook became Meta nearly a year ago, its stock has lost about 60% of its value, taking Zuckerberg's worth down with it.
The company's pivot to the Metaverse underscores the trouble with its traditional business model, which relies on selling massive amounts of advertising against very specific user data. Apple iOS 14 changes last year that made tracking harder for advertisers took a big bite out of Meta's earning power.
Among social media companies, Meta and Snap rely the most on users on iOS, said Angelo Zino, an analyst at CFRA who covers social media companies. He pointed to Google parent Alphabet, whose earnings have held up better "because they're not as exposed to the iOS changes," he said.
"The privacy issue has been a much bigger thorn than most people had anticipated, and it's probably going to be an issue for longer than anyone had thought," he added.
Along with slowing revenue, Meta reported its first-ever dip in user numbers in February. At the same time, the company has increased its spending by roughly $10 billion a year to build out the virtual-reality Metaverse, a project Zuckerberg has signaled could take many years. That's cause for concern for investors who see a surge in spending over the short term without the guarantee of a payoff.
"There's reason to be excited if you're an investor over time, but what we know about investors is they tend to be impatient," Zino told CBS MoneyWatch.
Zuckerberg remains optimistic
"You know the next vision for the broader internet could potentially get there, you just don't know how long it takes and what exactly Meta's role will be ... all you know right now is, essentially, it's going to cost a lot of money," he said.
Still, the plunge in his wealth doesn't seem to have tarnished Zuckerberg's techno-optimism. Speaking last month with podcast host Joe Rogan, the Meta chief doubled down on his belief that the metaverse would be more "useful" and allow people to have a "healthier" relationship with technology.
"I don't necessarily want people to spend more time with computers," Zuckerberg said, according to Fortune. "I just want the time that people spend with screens to be better."
BY IRINA IVANOVA