SAN FRANCISCO May 20 Getting married was a
smart business move as well as a personal milestone for Facebook
chief Mark Zuckerberg, with the timing of the wedding,
the day after the company's initial public offering, potentially
proving particularly advantageous, California divorce lawyers
said on Sunday.
Assuming the couple signed a prenuptial agreement, as most
wealthy Californians do, Zuckerberg and Chan would have agreed
exactly how to split assets, including his Facebook stock, if
their marriage dissolved in future. Even without a prenup, the
wedding's timing would help establish the value of their assets
in the event of any future divorce battle, lawyers said.
A spokeswoman for Facebook declined to comment on whether
the couple signed such an agreement.
Priscilla Chan and Zuckerberg live together in the modest
house in Palo Alto, Calif., where they were married on Saturday.
The couple met as undergraduates at Harvard University in
2004. Zuckerberg, now 28, dropped out of college to work on
Facebook, while Chan, a pediatrician, stayed to earn her
undergraduage degree in 2007.
Chan's work led to Facebook creating an organ donation page.
The pair recently travelled to China.
Had they continued the status quo, Chan could potentially
lay claim to a much larger portion of assets, including a chunk
of his $20 billion in Facebook shares, lawyers say.
"In California, people who live together without the benefit
of marriage could claim they had an agreement to pool resources
and efforts," said Napa, Calif., lawyer Robert Blevans. Although
they are hard to prove, "those claims can get really ugly."
Blevans cited the case of Anthony Maglica, the founder of
the company that makes Maglite flashlights. In 1994, an Orange
County court awarded $84 million to Maglica's girlfriend Claire,
who took his name and lived with him for 23 years. Although an
appeals court reversed the award in 1998, she later negotiated a
$29 million settlement.
The same logic-- avoiding messy court fights-- enters into
the calculus of a prenuptial agreement.
"One of the primary reasons that wealthy people enter into
prenups is to prevent the type of carnage that can come with
divorce," said Garrett Dailey, an appellate attorney in Oakland,
Calif., "Better to sort it out in advance."
A prenuptial agreement in California typically states how
spouses would divide assets in the event of a divorce. The
couple usually waives the right to make claims based on
community-property laws, which state that any property created
after the marriage is essentially community property and should
be split evenly after any divorce.
California is one of a handful of states with
community-property laws. Most states rely on equitable-division
rules, which give more flexibility to a judge in dividing
In Chan's case, she could lay claim to a portion of the
options and grants in Facebook stock that vest during the time
of their marriage, lawyers said.
If there were no prenup, or if there were and Chan contested
it, she could also try to go after stock Zuckerberg held
previously if she could claim it increased in value during the
relationship and the increase was due directly to Zuckerberg's
efforts. Lawyers said that is hard to prove for publicly-traded
"In an organization of this size, that's not going to
happen," Blevans said.
But still, in case of such a clash, it would likely help
Zuckerberg that the marriage took place the day after the
initial public offering.
"The value of the company is absolutely known," said Dailey.
"There's no dispute over it." If the timing of the marriage so
close to the IPO was accidental, "then it was a very nice
coincidence," said Blevans.
Getting married after Zuckerberg achieved such a high level
of success probably made the couple at least consider a
"If they had gotten married in college, it probably wouldn't
have occurred to them," said Jennifer Saslaw, an attorney at
Moradi Saslaw LLP in San Francisco.
Lawyers said there was no guarantee the couple signed an
agreement, citing divorce cases involving wealthy people such as
actor Mel Gibson and singer Paul McCartney who skipped prenups.
But they say it is likely they did.
"In every single state, a wealthy person is better with a
prenup," said Dailey. "I cannot comprehend Zuckerberg marrying