As the world's largest social network and most disappointing IPO of the year continues its downward stock slide, pundits are weighing in on what the answer to Facebook's (Nasdaq: FB ) woes could be. Suggestions range from taking the company private again to replacing wunderkind-in-charge Mark Zuckerburg. The latter got me thinking -- who could run this company better than Zuck? Let's see who's out there to choose from.
Still getting picked on
One would think after he invented the biggest website of our time, Zuckerberg wouldn't be getting bullied anymore. Unfortunately for him, it looks like the Winklevoss twins were nothing compared with the beating he's taking now. The Los Angeles Times recently ran an article interviewing four portfolio managers and consultants -- all who suggested Zuck step down but remain on staff as a creative director.
Something tells me Mark wouldn't take too kindly to that idea, but let's entertain it anyway. Following are my three picks for the new and improved Facebook.
1. Lou Gerstner
Lou Gerstner might not be a household name, but he should be. Gerstner took over technology giant IBM (NYSE: IBM ) when it was heading for the graveyard. He was a complete outsider -- nontechnical and a former food-company executive. But it was his fresh point of view, possibly from his days at RJR Nabisco (where freshness is a priority), that truly saved the company. Gerstner's biggest move, and what he claims was the most important decision of his business career, was to prevent the company from splintering into various divisions. He wanted to incorporate the myriad departments and operations into a scalable, top-to-bottom technology-solutions provider.
Sure, Gerstner might be a little old for the job -- I doubt he even has a Facebook profile -- but he walked into IBM, an inbred bastion of groupthink, and treated it like a business.
I understand Zuckerberg's vision of building great products and watching the money follow suit, but this organization needs a leader who treats it the way it needs to be treated -- as a publicly traded company.
2. Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos is truly Internet royalty, along with ... well, I guess Al Gore and Chuck Norris. The founder and CEO of Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) might just be the greatest tech CEO of all time. (What's that, Apple fans?) Amazon and Facebook are drastically different businesses, of course, but Bezos has a way of focusing on fundamentals that transcend individual business models. In a Forbes interview, Bezos stressed "focusing on things that won't change" when determining strategy. This is a great principle. Even though a good portion of the world's population has a Facebook account, it is vulnerable to trends and new products.
Bezos keeps Amazon focused on offering as many products as possible, at the lowest prices possible, in the quickest time possible. Time is more of a luxury than a burden for Facebook, as we tend to waste so much of it on the website. But offering new products -- this is something the Facebook of the future needs, and I'm not talking about new News Feed features. To keep us interested, or from switching over to something more ... Pinteresting, we need products -- products we wouldn't mind paying for. Bezos suggests to figure out what consumers want, and work backwards. This means that having a room full of engineers putting new trinkets on the Facebook home page is not going to cut it. Facebook needs to figure out something we need, and then sell it to us.
3. Bill Nelson
No, not the Florida senator, though he's good, too. This Bill Nelson is the CEO of HBO, a division of Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) . I am treating HBO as a completely separate entity from Time Warner, for the record.
HBO is the leader in quality original programming and premium-cable offerings. The company has innovated since day one, offering content you not only pay for, but you pay for on top of your already too-high cable bill. But the biggest reason I like Nelson for the Facebook job is the total domination HBO currently has in terms of original programming -- i.e., content.
Since the late '90s, HBO has offered quality original programming that slowly gained traction for a few years until exploding onto the mainstream circuit. Now, everybody wants HBO so they can watch "oh-my-gosh-it's-like-Melrose-Place-with-vampires" drama True Blood or "wow-it's-a-pornographic-Lord-of-the-Rings" series Game of Thrones. HBO knows what people want, and it gives it to them -- for a high price.
Facebook's content, while free for the company since the users create it, is of generally very low quality. My Facebook feed consists mainly of me yelling at the Internet via status updates, photos of girls I knew from college making kissy faces, and trending news stories -- which are usually about how Kim Kardashian made a wrong left turn the other day and accidentally ended up on the Internet again.
Under Bill Nelson's rule of HBO, the company has offered the absolute top tier of programming across a wide array of genres to an ever-increasing consumer base.
Bonus suggestion: Me
Ultimately, I think I should run Facebook.
I have a seasoned technical background. In fact, just last night I programmed my coffee maker to make coffee by itself at 5:30 a.m. -- every day. I have a universal remote control that talks to my TV, Blu-Ray, and home theater -- all because I typed in the effective code.
As the leader of a company with vast data reserves, I would put that information to work and sell it to corporations -- for money. Sure, there may be a lawsuit for privacy infringement, but that's already happening anyway. And if I have learned anything from corporations, it's that all problems can be solved with an infinite legal budget.
I'm young, I'm innovative, and I can eat an entire Papa John's large pizza in one sitting.
For more information
Will Facebook take my suggestions and dethrone Zuckerberg for someone more qualified -- like myself? Sure -- why not? But in the meantime, I would suggest looking at this premium report prepared by our analysts about the company. It will tell you what to expect from the social network -- both the opportunities and the hurdles. Read it here.