Reid Hoffman, co-founder and chairman of LinkedIn Corp. and an early investor in Facebook Inc. (FB), plans to sell some of his shares in the world’s largest social network prior to its initial public offering this year.
“I am selling a minority of my position as part of a general diversification strategy, but holding onto the majority of my stock,” Hoffman said in a telephone interview.
Hoffman participated in Facebook’s seed funding round in 2004, along with Peter Thiel and Mark Pincus. He later invested in social-gaming leader Zynga Inc. and became a partner at Menlo Park, California-based venture capital firm Greylock Partners.
Facebook, which filed in February to raise as much as $5 billion in an IPO, may be valued at as much as $100 billion in the offering, people with knowledge of the matter said earlier this year.
While Hoffman’s stake in Facebook isn’t disclosed in the company’s prospectus, the website Who Owns Facebook estimates he owns 0.5 percent, or about $500 million, based on a valuation of $100 billion.
The trading of private-company shares has accelerated in recent years, spurring the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to examine whether the trades expose investors to fraud because the companies aren’t required to disclose financial data. Last week, the U.S. regulator settled with SharesPost Inc. to resolve claims that the online marketplace acted as an unregistered broker of shares.
Hoffman is the biggest shareholder of LinkedIn (LNKD), with stock valued at about $1.9 billion following its IPO last year.
Jonathan Thaw, a spokesman for Menlo Park-based Facebook, declined to comment on the stock sale.
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