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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donates $100 million, talks education with 'Oprah'

September 24, 2010 | 11:55 am

Facebook Inc. chief Mark Zuckerberg is getting an early start as a philanthropist, donating $100 million to assist schools in Newark, New Jersey’s largest city.

The school district has about 39,000 students and has been under state control since 1995. The donation will give city Mayor Cory A. Booker a larger role in running the schools. The city is raising matching funds.

At 26, Zuckerberg is the 35th richest American, according to Forbes magazine. He talked about the education project on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and in a news conference with Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Booker, who is a Democrat.

Friday's announcement comes on the same day two films will debut: "The Social Network," which opens the New York Film Festival, and "Waiting for Superman," a documentary by Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim about the crisis in public education. Winfrey has featured education on her syndicated talk show this week.

Zuckerberg, who started Facebook in 2004 in his Harvard dorm room, has grown the service to about 550 million members. It is valued as high as $34 billion on the secondary market.

"I'm putting some of my Facebook stock into a foundation," Zuckerberg explained during the news conference. "The foundation will then sell it off to raise cash, and then the cash will be used to fund the project, and the plan that the governor and the mayor are putting together, contingent on getting the results that we want to get and on getting the matching $100 million as well."

Zuckerberg said he runs Facebook full-time and did not plan to run a foundation as well.

During the news conference, Zuckerberg said he considered making an anonymous donation to avoid the appearance that he was trying to blunt the impact of "The Social Network," which portrays him as someone who played fast and loose in building Facebook.

Booker said there were "some tense moments" in negotiating the timing of the announcement. "The movie actually became a complication because Mark's team did not think that it would be good for him to make an announcement during this time," Booker said.

As for the movie, Zuckerberg told "Oprah": "It's a movie. It's fun. A lot of it is fiction, but even the filmmakers will say that. They're trying to build a good story," he said, adding jokingly, "This is my life so I know it's not that dramatic. … Maybe it would be fun to remember it as partying and all this crazy drama but who knows? Maybe it'll be an interesting story."

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey's start-up Square has set up a website for people to donate to the effort. Booker gave the mobile payments gadget a plug in a video on the site in which Dorsey made a $5,000 donation to Newark schools with his American Express card.

-- Jessica Guynn

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