Twitter IPO won't make shareholders super-rich

The Twitter IPO will set the social networking company's value at $10 billion or more, but the lack of a central shareholder means that the Twitter IPO won't be minting as many billionaires as some of its tech predecessors, 

Kacper Pempel/Reuters/File
The shadows of people holding mobile phones are cast onto a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken in Warsaw.

Tech IPOs are, at their core, giant liquidity events for founders. But Twitter is a little different, and it remains to be seen if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Even though the company will instantly get a public value of up to $10 billion or more, none of the insiders can cash out right away. And only one of the top shareholders will become a billionaire—and he's no longer an employee of the company.

According to the company's S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the largest individual shareholder is Evan Williams, the company's former CEO. He has 12 percent of the company, or 56.9 million shares. He will become the only paper billionaire created by the IPO, with a paper net worth around $1.2 billion, if Twitter gets a valuation of just under $10 billion.

Jack Dorsey, who is often the public face of Twitter, has a 4.9 percent stake, or 23.4 million shares, and could be worth around $470 million. By comparison, CEO Dick Costolo has around 7.5 million shares, giving him around $150 million, and venture capitalist Peter Fenton, who sits on Twitter's board, has a 6.7 percent stake, or 31.6 million shares, worth about $630 million.

Biz Stone, who many regard as the founder of the concept behind Twitter, has no shares, presumably since he sold his stake in one of the earlier offerings. The company has already raised more than $1 billion in funding rounds.

The rest of the big shareholders are outside investors like Yuri Milner, Union Square Ventures and others.

Of course, these stakes could rise if the stock does, and Twitter could mint more billionaires in the future. But the lack of a big shareholder with a supermajority could be seen as a sign that Twitter is a more democratized, professional company not tied to one person's decisions.

But Twitter's lack of a central shareholder/founder—like Facebook's Mark ZuckerbergNetflix's Reed Hastings or the Google guys—could also be a problem. The combination of a visionary entrepreneur with a concentrated stake in a company has proven powerful in Silicon Valley. It remains to be seen whether spreading the wealth—and the decisions—can also be a recipe for success.

By CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter: 


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