Nice guys finish last, and they also sometimes fail to close lucrative deals. According to Forbes, the Washington Post Company’s famously kind CEO Don Graham lost out on the deal of a lifetime with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg back in early 2005. Graham had approached Zuckerberg about making an equity investment in Facebook, which was then a fledgling social networking site operating on a relatively small number of elite college campuses. The two shook hands on a $6 million deal.
Zuckerberg then got a better offer from Accel Partners, a Silicon Valley firm. Graham, true to his reputation of being a nice guy and a mentor to young people, didn’t pressure Zuckerberg to honor his verbal contract. He didn’t even make a counteroffer. Graham advised the young entrepreneur to follow his heart, and Zuckerberg followed it straight to Accel.
What did the failed deal cost Graham and the Washington Post? Now that Facebook is about to go public, one firm estimates that that $6 million could now be worth a cool $7 billion. This realization comes as the Post is turning out major circulation and revenue losses. Management handed out a round of buyouts this month, the fifth round in nine years. Just weeks before Graham and Zuckerberg’s deal, Post stock prices were at an all-time high of $942 per share. Today they’re under $400. The Washington Post Company had no comment on the Forbes story.