Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally spoke out on a Web designer's strange claim to own 84 percent of the social network. Zuckerberg says the lawsuit is insane, and a Facebook spokesman implied it's part of a shakedown attempt.
Asked by Fortune's David Kirkpatrick, who just completed a book about Facebook, whether there was any merit to the claim he signed over equity to the Web designer suing him, Zuckerberg said, "Of course not. It was all about his website. I hadn't even thought of Facebook yet. How could I have given him an ownership interest in it?"
As we said in our original post on the suit, it seems clear Zuckerberg hadn't even thought of Facebook at the time he was hired for design work by plaintiff Paul Ceglia, who says that he gave Zuckerberg additional money as investment in a budding concept with the working title "The Face Book." Zuckerberg didn't register the Facebook domain name, an automatic first step for any budding Web entrepreneur, until nearly a year later after the supposed agreement with Ceglia. And he went off and launched an very different concept called FaceMash in the meantime. Kirkpatrick writes that in his book he shows how Zuckerberg didn't have the idea for Facebook until months after the alleged Ceglia agrement.
Meanwhile, a Facebook spokesman told Fortune, "Plaintiff's counsel approached us and offered to discuss ways to make this go away. We declined." Read: They just want a payoff, and we're not giving it to them. Well, given all the more plausible claims on Facebook's assets, that's probably a wise posture.