x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

A peek into the Facebook founder's private life

The fresh-faced 26-year-old billionaire Mark Zuckerberg has allowed Oprah Winfrey's cameras into his home for the first time.

Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg recently opened his modest home to The Oprah Show.
Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg recently opened his modest home to The Oprah Show.

The fresh-faced 26-year-old Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg has allowed Oprah Winfrey's cameras into his home for the first time, and I'm not sure it was a wise move. People are always fascinated by the lives of the rich and famous and not always for the right reasons. Now we have had an illuminating glimpse into the normally reclusive young man's lifestyle and it seems to be extremely modest for someone so rich.

His priorities are absolutely in the right place, though, and he has a well-defined social conscience, as is evident by his support of an educational project. He was on The Oprah Show to announce a $100m (Dh367m) grant to help reform schools and says he wants people to have the same advantages he had. His business focus is clearly on his fabulously successful Facebook project and most definitely not on material comforts.

He has a nice kitchen, for sure, but it's nothing special, and he reveals that he studies Chinese on the kitchen table every morning in preparation for a holiday he's planning with his long-term Chinese girlfriend Priscilla Chan. His study in the small, rented home is positively spartan with just three chairs, some shelving and a single laptop. He drives a small silver hatchback that wouldn't make a Premier League footballer remotely jealous.

There's an unworldliness about Zuckerberg that is positively dangerous. As a result of the programme, everyone will be able to pinpoint exactly where he lives in Palo Alto, California, and he will have all the nutcases in creation hanging about outside his home begging for handouts. Burglars may not bother him, though, as there doesn't seem an awful lot of value in the house apart from himself. Perhaps it was a misguided attempt to counteract a reportedly unflattering portrayal of himself in a new movie, The Social Network, based on the creation of Facebook, although he says mildly that his life is really much less dramatic, and the film seems like more fun.

Zuckerberg is clearly modelling himself on that other internet billionaire Bill Gates who is giving away a substantial part of his fortune through his foundation's charity work. There will be plenty of people who will have watched the show and wondered what the point of being wealthy is if you don't spend at least some of your fortune on making yourself a bit more comfortable. Zuckerberg may well find that it won't be long before the over-curious will force him out of his little suburban home and into an enclave for the rich.