Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg now worth more than Steve Jobs

The annual Forbes 400, which attempts to measure and rank the richest Americans in terms of their net-worth, came out today with a big surprise: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who has been the world’s youngest billionaire to date, is now worth more than Apple‘s Steve Jobs.

Zuckerberg, 26, who owns and controls approximately one-fourth of Facebook, is valued at $6.9 billion this year — a whopping rise of $4.9 billion from last year — putting him in the No. 35 position on the list. Jobs, on the other hand, is $1 billion richer than last year, but seven places behind Zuckerberg (No. 42) at $6.1 billion.

While net-worths are only approximate estimations — valuations and stocks tend to vary, and most wealth is, as they say, strictly “on paper” — Zuckerberg’s rise can be attributed to the growing interest from private equity investments in Facebook which have valued the company at around $23 billion, triple its 2009 valuation of $7 billion.

On the other hand, while Jobs founded and is undoubtedly the biggest influence at Apple today, it might come as a surprise to some that the 55 year-old CEO’s financial interest in Apple is not the biggest contributor to his wealth.

In fact, the majority of Jobs’ wealth ($4.4 billion) comes from Disney, where he became the company’s largest shareholder after its acquisition of Pixar back in 2006. The remaining $1.3 billion is the stake in Apple he attained from its 1996 acquisition of NeXT and subsequent stock option grants from his tenure at the company.

The dichotomy between the two CEOs points to an interesting fact: where as Jobs was fired from his company back in 1985, Zuckerberg has done a commendable job of keeping in power, still controlling an unprecedented 25 percent of the company and the majority of board seats. The young CEO probably learned a thing or two from Jobs’ mishap, and it seems to have paid off. He also had good counsel from Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and Plaxo, who had been booted out of his companies. Parker, who was Facebook’s first president until he was ousted, was determined to raise funding in a way that would preserve Zuckerberg’s control of Facebook, and that strategy has by and large panned out. The story was chronicled in David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect book.

Interestingly, Zuckerberg has already become a philanthropist; today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Zuckerberg will donate $100 million to Newark, N.J. schools. He will do so by setting up a foundation and endowing it with Facebook stock.

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