I Do

05.21.12

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s Wedding Calculus

The tycoon married just one day after making a mint off Facebook’s IPO. Rebecca Dana on why cash may have been a factor—not that the tech’s new golden couple is likely to face a messy divorce. Plus, 11 surprising facts about Priscilla Chan.

One can only imagine the details of the prenuptial agreement presumably negotiated by parties representing Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan in the months leading up to their surprise wedding on Saturday. But it’s a safe bet that a couple with a “relationship contract” mandating 100 minutes of “alone time” every week did not enter the sacred institution of marriage lightly.

Mark has been dating “Cilla” for longer than he’s been running Facebook, which means the two have had nine years to get used to the idea of being obscenely rich together. They have also been in Palo Alto, Calif., long enough to know the special agony of a Silicon Valley divorce.

PayPal founder Elon Musk has had two very public divorces in the last four years, the first of which was live-blogged by his ex. Google’s Eric Schmidt is expected to have the second most expensive divorce in history from his wife of 13 years, whom some expect to walk away from their open marriage with $1.5 billion. Zuck and his bride seem uncommonly sane, modest, and well matched—the Will and Kate of overnight tech billionaires—but who wants to risk ending up in an episode of Divorce Wars.

Lawyers have suggested that the timing of the wedding, just 24 hours after last week’s Facebook IPO earned Zuckerberg around $20 billion in personal wealth, was particularly advantageous to the tech tycoon. California, where they wed, is one of just a few states with “communal-property laws,” which limit judges’ leeway in dividing marital assets and result in a lot of 50-50 splits. Marrying after the IPO means there at least wouldn’t be a dispute about how much Zuckerberg was worth at the time of their romantic joining-of-assets. A prenup, if they signed one, would clarify matters further and could shield them from the communal-property laws.

A source close to Zuckerberg has said the timing of the banns was purely coincidental, since the IPO date was a “moving target.” Keep in mind a source close to Zuckerberg also said it was pure coincidence that the Facebook CEO went on Oprah to announce a $100 million gift to the Newark Public School district right before the release of The Social Network, which depicted him as selfish, callous, and almost pathologically anti-social. Either Mark Zuckerberg is the dumb-luckiest 28-year-old in America or sources close to him think we’re all idiots.

If nothing else, this weekend’s wedding gives lie to the image of Zuckerberg as the heartless troglodyte of Aaron Sorkin’s script. He has chosen a woman of substance, with whom he has a long-standing, mature relationship. Chan is the opposite of a Real Housewife—or to continue the Sorkin shorthand, an opportunistic Asian coed with no distinct identity. A pediatrician and former teacher, she is clearly independent, intelligent, and if the “relationship contract” is any indication, assertive of her needs. Watching them walk down the street together is enough to know she’s no wilting flower.

The wedding gives lie to the image of Zuckerberg as the heartless troglodyte of The Social Network.

Experts say it’s a good sign for both that they got together before he made his fortune. “Very powerful people who are well known in their field develop a very, very highly sensitive bullshit meter,” says psychologist Karen Binder-Brynes. “They know when someone is just into them for whatever they represent and not for who they are. They know.”

There is even a sweet side to the cold financial calculus that may (or may not!) have led Zuckerberg and Chan to wed when they did. If, on his own initiative or the advice of counsel, he did wait for the IPO before tying the knot, the timing suggests he couldn’t wait even one day more. They lured guests on the premise of celebrating Chan’s graduation from medical school last Monday and then surprised everyone with a wedding. The couple’s biggest splurge, apart from a ruby ring, was to have Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong play for guests.

Prenup or no, this does not seem like a union headed for a tabloid demise. Zuckerberg and Chan are by all accounts extremely private and low-key. They met waiting for the bathroom at a Harvard frat party, and she found him odd but endearing. She is a vegetarian; he kills his own meat. They travel and post pictures of their dog online. According to a report, they have been studying French together for months in anticipation of a honeymoon in Paris. And now she’s officially in it for better or worse, for days when the stock goes up—and days like today, when it goes down.

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Getty Images (2); AP Photo (2)