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"[I]f something goes completely wrong I can just phone Bono and find, again, that he's probably one of the best psychologists I know." — Ali

Bono Will Make Maybe $10 Million, Not $1.5 Billion, From Facebook's IPO


Bono is rich but not as rich as you have been led to believe in the last few days. A report at NME.com, which was picked up by Spinner, Huffington Post and the New York Post (which got a link from Drudge Report), claimed the Facebook IPO will earn the U2 singer around $1.5 billion and make him the world's richest musician. It's been tweeted, retweeted and posted on Facebook without question or skepticism. That's a shame because Bono probably made $10 million or less Friday.

Bono is managing director at Elevation Partners, a private equity firm that acquired 44.7 million shares of Facebook on the private market for $210 million, according to various media reports. The value of those shares has increased sharply over the years as Facebook has grown to over 900 million users.

Unfortunately, NME and other media outlets overlooked three important facts that have a direct impact the wealth generated by the IPO: Bono is one of seven managing partners at Elevation Partners, private equity firms keep only a small share of their profits and the firm sold only 11.5% of its shares on Friday.

Let's start with the shares sold Friday. According to Facebook's latest S-1 filing, Elevation Partners planned to sell 4.62 million of its 44.7 million shares. The firm had acquired its 44.7 million shares for a reported $210 million, or an average of $4.69 per share. At the offer price of $38, Elevation Partners grossed $175,654,000 and netted $159,954,000. But not all of that profit will go into the bank accounts of either Elevation Partners or Bono.

Private equity firms invest money on behalf of their clients and return to them the lion's share of the profits. Elevation Partners will also keep a percentage of profits -- this is typically around 20% but can vary from firm to firm. In addition, firms typically charge an annual fee based on the size of the fund. Some firms also charge a fee to investors for buying a company.

Elevation Partners' share of its profit made Friday is probably in the area of $30.8 million. Bono's take depends on the particulars of Elevation Partners and how it divvies up its profits. The company website lists six other managing directors excluding Bono, a senior advisor, two associates and seven-person administrative team. Bono's share could be as low as $4.4 million, or one-seventh of the profit (there are seven managing partners). Facebook latest S-1 filing mentions only four of the seven managing directors: Fred Anderson, Paul Hewson (Bono's given name), Roger McNamee, and Bret Pearlman.

A conservative estimate would be in the area of $10 million. Bono's share would be higher if some managing partners take a greater share of the profit, or if he personally invested in the Elevation Partners fund that bought Facebook shares.

Elevation Partners and Bono don't own 100% of the remaining 40.1 million shares, either. The company can lay claim to less than 20% of their current $1.46 billion value (as of 2pm ET Friday) because it will return 80% of the profit -- or $1.17 billion at current valuation -- to its investors (it will be less than 20% of their current value because Elevation Partners' cost basis for the shares need to be taken into account). Bono will be left with an unknown fraction of that 20%.

Elevation Partners could fare better if its unsold shares increase in value. It's entirely possible that Facebook shares could increase over time, although in the near term shares could stumble after the media hype dies down. In any case, it's safe to say nobody at Elevation Partners will make $1.5 billion from its Facebook investment.

© Billboard, 2012.