Last week, Facebook director Reed Hastings funneled some of the wealth he's created as CEO of Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) into buying Facebook shares. According to SEC filings, Hastings acquired nearly 48,000 shares last week at a weighted average price of $21, which adds up to a cool $1 million.
The form also states that Hastings' total Facebook ownership now is equal to the new addition, which makes me wonder why his 20,000 shares of restricted Facebook stock don't show up here. At least 25% of those shares, which were granted when Hastings joined the board, vested in July. Counting the entire batch of restricted shares as current holdings, Hastings now has about $1.5 million of skin in the Facebook game.
This is clearly not the core of Hastings' portfolio. His shares in Netflix are currently worth $62 million, and he also owns $5.4 million of Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) , where he also serves on the board of directors. The Facebook buy mirrors his early activity at Microsoft, but on a smaller scale: Within the first 15 months of that board appointment, Hastings bought $5 million of Mr. Softy's stock. He has neither added to nor sold from that position since then.
Does this buy mean anything at all?
It's always nice to see insiders like executives and directors betting their own money on a company's success. If people with a direct view into Facebook's operations think it's worth an investment, you'd think the stock would be poised to pop. This is supposed to be a very shareholder-friendly use of company cash.
On the other hand, many companies simply waste money on buybacks. Hastings is a brilliant business leader but not such a genius when it comes to investing. One of his worst moves at Netflix was to authorize share buybacks at high valuations and then flood the market with low-cost shares when he needed that cash back.
And his bet on Microsoft hasn't exactly paid off in spades, either. Dow component Microsoft's share price has run neck-and-neck with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) since Hastings bought his shares -- except that a Dow fund would have beaten Redmond's finest by about 3% of superior dividends.
In other words, Hastings' market moves are not exactly the gold standard of investment advice. I still believe that Facebook is too expensive at today's $22 per share, and that the underlying business may have peaked already. My dim view of Facebook's future is unmoved by Reed Hastings' seal of approval or sea lion of enthusiasm.
What's a Fool to do?
The only way to turn my frown upside down is to restart Facebook's stalled growth engines and improve the anemic monetization of its torrential online traffic. One or the other isn't enough, and doing both will be very difficult -- especially with a green management team under Zuckerberg's dictatorial thumb. I recently canceled my thumbs-down CAPScall on this stock just to lock in some drastic short-term points, but the bearish rating is back again. There just isn't any substance behind Facebook's flashy face.
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