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Evan Williams, who helped invent Twitter more than a decade ago and briefly served as its CEO, has unloaded nearly half of his Twitter stake since April, documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commision show. Because he is required to pay taxes on his capital gains every time he sells shares, Forbes now pegs his net worth at just under $1.7 billion, down from $1.8 billion, according to Forbes Real-Time ranking.
As of Twitter’s April 11, 2018 proxy, Williams held about 29 million Twitter shares, or 3.9% of the company’s stock. He now has about 14.6 million Twitter shares, after giving away nearly 3.7 million Twitter shares, and selling just under 10.8 million shares.
Williams, a Twitter board member, gave away 3.7 million Twitter shares on November 27, nearly 3.1 million of which -- worth a bit more than $100 million -- went to his and his wife Sara’s charitable foundation, Someland Foundation (previously called the Sara and Evan Williams Foundation). Recipients of the remaining shares weren’t named, but could have gone to donor advised funds or nonprofits.
Most of the share sales took place over the past four months. As a result of the sales and gifts, Williams’ Twitter stake has dropped by almost half since April. A spokesperson for Williams declined to comment.
The past year has been strong for some major technology stocks. In the past 12 months, Twitter’s stock has risen about 58% to $32.84 when markets opened on Friday. Five big tech firms, including Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, and Nvidia, hit historic highs this June. “In an uncertain world with significant downside economic tail risks, technology has been seen to be, correctly, relatively stable,” Peter Oppenheimer and Guillaume Jaisson, analysts at Goldman Sachs, wrote in a report this summer. By comparison, the S&P 500 is up less than 1% in the past 12 months.
Although Williams won’t comment on why he sold so much, the move is perhaps just common sense diversification of his investments. It could also reflect a view that Twitter’s best days have come and gone.
Williams is also founder and chief executive officer of online blogging site Medium; Forbes estimates he has a 19.5% stake in the company, which was last valued by investors in 2016 at $600 million. And he is cofounder of Obvious Ventures, an investment firm that makes social impact bets aimed at helping the environment, human health and promoting humane labor practices.
A University of Nebraska dropout, he grew up working on his family’s soybean and corn farm. He learned to write code on his own and created blogging platform Blogger with two friends, which sold the company to Google in 2003. He served as Twitter’s president and CEO from July 2009 to March 2010, and has served as a member of its board of directors since 2007.
Twitter has also helped mint another Silicon Valley billionaire, Jack Dorsey. The cofounder and CEO of both Twitter and payments company Square is worth an estimated $4.5 billion, according to Forbes’ Real-Time ranking, up from $3.1 billion since Forbes’ Billionaires list in March, buoyed by Twitter and Square stock gains.