The e-mail was blunt: Mark Zuckerberg had no interest in playing nice with the guy from next door.
“How do we make this go away?” a Zuckerberg advisor wrote to his real estate agent. “MZ is not going to take a meeting with him ... ever.”
Now that 2013 e-mail, and others like it, are at the center of property war gone rogue. On one side is Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of Facebook Inc. On the other is the businessman from next door, a real estate developer who hoped to profit from Zuckerberg’s desire for privacy.
This is no back-fence squabble over who trims the tree. The story laid out in court documents shows how Silicon Valley’s power elite fends off those seeking to force their way into the club and share the wealth.
At its heart are themes that have been with Zuckerberg since Facebook’s inception and popularized via film in “The Social Network,” the fictionalized look at the hoodied man-boy behind the company: brass-knuckle tactics, bravura performances, whiffs of betrayal. Only this time, the fuss is over his lot in a once ordinary Northern California subdivision.
The Winklevoss twins once claimed Zuckerberg, their former classmate and business partner, reneged on his promises. The developer in this case, Mircea Voskerician, also says Zuckerberg broke his word. Zuckerberg’s lawyers say that’s nonsense -- and that Voskerician is just trying to squeeze money out of a billionaire.
The facts, in a nutshell, are these:
In November 2012, Voskerician was in a contract to buy the property behind Zuckerberg’s home in Palo Alto, California. He sent a letter to the Facebook chief executive officer saying he planned to tear down the home and build a 9,600 square-foot replacement. It would overlook the back of the Zuckerberg abode, a view that would include the master bedroom.
Only then Voskerician made an unusual offer. Calling himself a “good neighbor,” he proposed to sell Zuckerberg a slice of the property at “100% premium” to afford him more privacy. Within two weeks, they agreed that Zuckerberg would buy the entire property at what Voskerician considered a steep discount.