I read through Facebook's S-1, the voluminous document that it filed yesterday in preparation for its initial public offering. Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff and former UNC system president, is on Facebook's board. According to the S-1, Bowles is chairman of Facebook's audit committee, which is the group responsible for making sure all the company's numbers are on the up and up. This is a particularly important role for new companies that are trying to convince the investing community that its revenues and profits are real, as opposed to Enron-like.
For his service on the board, Bowles has received 20,000 "restricted stock units," or RSUs. Facebook estimates the value of those at around $600,000. But he has to stay on the board for several years before they completely vest. Frankly, that's chump change to Bowles. Being on the board of the world's hottest company is probably something he'd do for nothing.
And frankly, a couple of guys on the board who you might recognize have much sweeter deals, such as Mark Andreessen, who has 5.2 million RSUs, and Don Graham, who has a million RSUs. Andreessen, who also has a bunch of Class B stock, according to the S-1, is the fellow who helped make Netscape the dominant internet browser in the early '90s. And Graham is the chairman of the board of the Washington Post.
Of course RSUs only pay off if Facebook continues to prosper. Andreessen knows from watching Microsoft's Explorer overtake Netscape 15 years ago how an Internet business can get demolished by a competitor with deep pockets.
The question I have is whether Erskine would rather spend the second half of his 60s hanging out with Mark Zuckerberg or being governor of North Carolina.
UPDATE: A reader also reminded me that Bowles is on the board of Morgan Stanley, the investment bank that is the lead underwriter on the IPO. The S-1 notes that Bowles began his career in corporate finance at Morgan Stanley. It is such a small world.
UPDATE #2: Question answered. Bowles just announced he's not running.