How moguls turn into heroes
“Even if you hate Mark Zuckerberg now,” said Alexis Madrigal, “you’ll love him later.” That might be hard to believe, but the Facebook chief executive “has a close adviser who followed a startlingly similar path: Bill Gates.” Much like Facebook today, Gates’ Microsoft was dogged by European and American regulators, accused of suspect business practices, and attacked by critics as “the evil empire.” Then, after 25 years as CEO, Gates left the top spot at age 44 and “began his rehabilitation.” He stayed out of the corporate headlines while “giving away vast sums of money.” This is the same trail tramped by Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Vanderbilt. Zuckerberg could join those robber barons made good. Never mind that news stories portray Facebook “as rapacious, growth-obsessed, greedy” or that consumer satisfaction surveys show social media firms ranked alongside much-loathed health insurers. In a decade, the 34-year-old Zuckerberg will be positioned to do just what Gates did: Step down, leave a trusted ally to run the company, and get on with handing out cash. Polls show that Gates is now the most admired person in the country, and Zuckerberg will do just as well. “Society’s good graces have a price,” and Zuckerberg—who has already pledged $45 billion to charity—can easily pay it.