Hoodie Gate: Facebook CEO's attire a sign of 'immaturity'?

Financial analyst criticizes Zuckerberg for wearing a 'hoodie' at IPO road show presentation

Of all the things discussed and analyzed surrounding Facebook's upcoming initial public offering, perhaps the most surprising -- or just plain funniest -- is co-founder Mark Zuckerberg's hoodie.

Facebook launched a pre-IPO roadshow this week, holding meetings in New York, Boston and other cities to pitch the company's stock to potential investors.

Zuckerberg was on hand to talk to investors at the first roadshow stop in New York on Monday.

Zuckerberg's hoodie
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, wearing his signature hoodie sweatshirt, leaves a Sheraton hotel in Manhattan on Monday after making an appearance at his company's IPO roadshow. (Photo: Reuters / Eduardo Munoz)

The young CEO was criticized by some attendees because he was wearing jeans and a so-called "hoodie" sweatshirt when he showed up to speak to some of the country's most influential and buttoned-down investors. It was definitely not the suit and tie that the financial types are used to seeing corporate executives wear.

In a videotaped interview with Bloomberg News, Michael Pachter, managing director with Wedbush Securities, said Zuckerberg's decision to wear his "signature hoodie ... is actually showing investors he doesn't care very much."

"He's going to be him, and he's going to do what he's always done. I think that's a mark of immaturity," Pachter added. "He's got to show [investors] the respect that they deserve because he's asking them for their money."

The fact that Zuckerberg seemed to show a lack of respect for the process suggests that he might not be the right person to lead a company that's expected to complete one of the biggest IPOs in tech history, said Pachter.

"He most certainly is a genius, and he really has done something that no one else could do," said Pachter. "I think he is well suited to be the chief product officer, the chief user experience officer ... to decide every feature that goes in. I'm not sure he's the right guy to run a corporation and to answer to shareholders."

Zuckerberg didn't attend Facebook's presentation to financial analysts in Boston on Tuesday.

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said Zuckerberg's absence from the Boston meeting shouldn't hurt the company's IPO. Facebook's reputation, he said, is strong enough to sell itself.

He did suggest, though, that Zuckerberg should try to act more respectful to the people he hopes will fund his company.

"Some Wall Street types are muttering about Zuckerberg's attire being disrespectful and immature, and they could be right," he said.

"It could be taken as studied indifference or arrogance -- or that he simply didn't think about what he was putting on. He was there to sell Facebook as a company, and the first rule of sales is that you don't give your prospective customers any reason to be uncomfortable before you start selling them," Olds added.

On the other hand, said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, Zuckerberg could be getting the respect of other potential investors by not pandering to his audience.

"Zuckerberg is the 'mad scientist' of Facebook, and the last thing anyone needs is him suiting up and faking it," Moorhead said. "Facebook wants to be all about being real, hip, young and cool. And suits just aren't. Zuckerberg's hoodie is about as famous as Steve Jobs's black turtleneck and blue jeans. It would be ill-advised to change for a financial roadshow."

Brad Shimmin, an analyst at CurrentAnalysis, said there's a standard uniform when it comes to the financial world. And old-school suit-and-tie types may not look so kindly on the wonder kid who bucks the system and doesn't dress in a manner they think is mature and respectful.

"For better or worse, that's his decision. What matters is how investors respond to that decision," said Shimmin.

"If a police officer shows up to work in shorts and a T-shirt, she will likely risk losing the respect otherwise gained from the uniform," Shimmin added. "It's the same with the leader of a globally important brand such as Facebook. It doesn't make him any less professional or capable, except perhaps in the eyes of those he wishes to influence."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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