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“It’s probably one of the first times there has been an IPO where everyone sort of has a stake in the outcome,” Blau says. While most Facebook users won’t see a penny from the offering, they are all intimately familiar with the company, so it resonates as something they understand.

And then there’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who turned 28 on Monday. He has emerged as the latest in a lineage of Silicon Valley prodigies who are alternately hailed for pushing the world in new directions and reviled for overstepping their bounds. He counted the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs among his mentors and he became one of the world’s youngest billionaires _ at least on paper _ well before Facebook went public. A dramatized version of Facebook’s founding was the subject of a Hollywood movie that won three Academy Awards last year, propelling Zuckerberg even further into the public spotlight.

Though Zuckerberg is selling about 30 million shares, he will remain Facebook’s largest shareholder. Even after the IPO, he will own 503.6 million shares, or 32 percent of Facebook’s total shares. At the $38 share price, his stake in the company is worth $19.1 billion. Zuckerberg will control the company with 56 percent of its voting stock as a result of agreements he has with other shareholders who promise to vote his way.

The set-up helps to ensure that he and other executives keep control as the sometimes conflicting demands of Wall Street exert new pressures on the company.

True to form, Zuckerberg and Facebook’s engineers are ringing in the IPO on their own terms. The company is holding an overnight “hackathon” Thursday, where engineers stay up writing programming code to come up with new features for the site. On Friday morning, Zuckerberg will ring the Nasdaq opening bell from Facebook’s headquarters.

The $38 share price is the price at which the investment banks arranging the offering will sell the stock to their clients. If extra shares reserved to cover additional demand are sold as part of the transaction, Facebook Inc. and its early investors stand to reap as much as $18.4 billion from the offering.

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Follow Barbara Ortutay on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BarbaraOrtutay