Mark Zuckerberg’s backyard privacy showdown has grown more tangled with competing claims about a mysterious African prince and a private eye accused of bullying a witness.
The Facebook Inc. founder is accused in a real estate developer’s lawsuit of reneging on a promise to introduce him to Silicon Valley’s elite as part of a $1.7 million deal that ended plans for a mansion with a view into the 31-year-old billionaire’s bedroom.
Zuckerberg’s lawyers claim that after digging into developer Mircea Voskerician’s version of events, they aren’t convinced a prince who purportedly offered 2 1/2 times that for the property rights really exists.
Voskerician contends the true objective of Zuckerberg’s detective was to intimidate a witness.
The current squabble comes in a dispute that has already exposed internal Facebook e-mails and spurred a $39 million real estate shopping spree to protect the tranquility of Zuckerberg’s two-story home in Palo Alto, California. As the two sides cast aspersions aimed at undermining the other’s credibility, the case moves closer to a trial scheduled for November that may air even more unseemly details.
Whether the developer conjured up a competing offer to make his lawsuit more compelling may prove to be one of those details.
Zuckerberg’s lawyers, aided by San Francisco private investigator Zachary Fechheimer, have been investigating a $4.3 million offer Voskerician said he turned down. The developer said he gave Zuckerberg a “discount” price because of the business introductions included in the deal.
James Sagorac, a friend of Voskerician’s who was acting as an intermediary for the original offer, initially refused to name the client he was representing, Zuckerberg’s lawyers said. Under a judge’s order, Voskerician’s lawyer provided Zuckerberg with contact information for Sagorac’s client, identified as a lawyer in South Africa, according to a state court filing in San Jose, California.
The South African, who Zuckerberg’s lawyers said they weren’t able to confirm was registered as a lawyer in that country, disclosed that the offer was made on behalf of a prince, according to the filing.