Fast Company

The Facebook IPO Players Club: Chris Hughes [Updated]

They were doing just fine before, but Facebook's biggest minority owners are about to be catapulted into a far more elite bracket. Chris Hughes is already spending his money in interesting ways.

chris-hughes''Who he is: Chris Hughes is 28, a Harvard graduate with a BA in history and literature. Unlike his Facebook compatriots, he didn't drop out because he "didn't have the money just to hang out." (Ouch! Take that, Zuck!) In 2006, when Barack Obama wanted to take advantage of Facebook's new modified pages for political candidates, Hughes was the human face of Facebook--and later went on to become critical to the campaign and known to Obama himself as "my Internet guy." He's now entrepreneur in residence at VC firm General Catalyst Partners, and cofounder and executive director of Jumo, a social network for people who want to "help the world." Recently he's rumored to be a bidder in the sale of The New Republic, has criticized North Carolina's plans for a ban on gay marriage, and while he's "cast as a villain" in The Social Network, it's hard to see that among his work, and among statements like: "What’s more important is that the everyday person who’s out there in the world can find support from everyday people here in the United States who care about an issue."

His connection to Facebook: He was roommates with the other core founders, but didn't code or design the site. Instead he was considered its spokesman, and is credited with coming up with "many hugely popular features," driven by his insistence that the site's tech "could enrich the lives of users."

His current worth: Forbes estimated his net worth at $700 million last year. 

What Facebook's IPO could earn him: Hughes has a 1% stake, which translates into $850 million of worth in what could eventually be an $85 billion business.

What he may do with the money: Hughes is the quiet man in this exclusive club (Googling turns up more responses for a U.K. journalist with the same name), so it's hard to say. His Jumo effort is a nonprofit, and so may get a cash injection. There's also that New Republic rumor to think about.

UPDATE 

Well, now we know what Hughes is up to with some of his money. As we suspected, he's now bought The New Republic magazine. His purchase of a majority stake was announced today, and he's planning on bringing some of his tech skills to the nearly century-old publication by expanding TNR's presence onto tablet computers...meaning, mainly, the iPad. The print edition will remain, but Hughes fully expects that in five to ten years the majority of readers will be accessing the mag's long form journalism on a tablet.

In a letter to readers, Hughes notes he resents that "today too many media institutions chase superficial metrics of online virality at the expense of investing in rigorous reporting and analysis of the most important stories of our time" and he instead shares the quality journalism vision of TNR's founders.

The terms of the deal aren't revealed, so we don't know how much Hughes paid, nor the new ownership structure--the magazine was previously owned by a consortium.

UPDATE 2

What he'll make at IPO: A hundred million dollars, at a Facebook valuation of $100 million.

What he'll do with the cash: We already know he's bought The New Republic, and now it looks like he's injecting serious money and momentum into the publication because he's planning a new New York office for it which'll be staffed by both editors and business-side folk. Hughes and his partner also recently pledged $100,000 to support Mainers United for Marriage, an organization pressing Maine's legislators to take a pro-same-sex marriage stance. Could this quietest of the Facebook club become a bit of a background political force?

UPDATE 3

It's beginning to look like Hughes and his partner are indeed leveraging their cash pile for political means: In cooperation with Governor Andrew Cuomo, they're funding a campaign to push the idea of publicly financed elections. Meantime Hughes' efforts at The Next Republic continue apace, with rumors of top-rank new hires and a goal of being the "New Yorker of D.C." 

Read about others in the Facebook IPO Players Club:

 

[Image: Flickr user unionsquareventures ]

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