Mark Zuckerberg’s combat sports prompt Meta warning

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Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg had a mixed week. His net worth soared by $28 billion thanks to the Facebook parent reporting a stellar quarter on Thursday, but he also faced intense pressure from lawmakers over his company’s child safety policies, at one point apologizing directly to the families of teen victims of online sexual abuse.

Less noticed was a warning to investors deep in the financial report for 2023 that Meta released this week. In a section entitled “Risks Related to Our Business Operations and Financial Results,” the company noted that its CEO engages “in various high-risk activities, such as combat sports, extreme sports, and recreational aviation, which carry the risk of serious injury and death.”

It added, “If Mr. Zuckerberg were to become unavailable for any reason, there could be a material adverse impact on our operations.”

Zuckerberg responded to coverage of the warning with a post on Meta’s Threads reading, “High risk = high reward.”

A danger to Zuckerberg and Meta investors?

His obsession with physical combat hadn’t gone unnoticed. It appeared for a while last year that he would have a cage fight with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, but in August Zuckerberg wrote on Threads: “If Elon ever gets serious about a real date and official event, he knows how to reach me. Otherwise, time to move on. I’m going to focus on competing with people who take the sport seriously.”

Fortune flagged the investor risk that month in a piece entitled: “Meta spends $14 million on Mark Zuckerberg’s security, and Tesla is ‘highly dependent’ on Elon Musk—but no one can actually stop them from maiming each other in a cage.”

A few months ago, Zuckerberg tore his ACL while sparring. In an Instagram post that garnered over 43,000 comments and showed him in a hospital bed, he wrote: “I was training for a competitive MMA fight early next year, but now that’s delayed a bit. Still looking forward to doing it after I recover.” 

That raised questions over whether investors should be warned about the risk posed by his fighting. Most CEOs, of course, don’t regularly engage in dangerous activities like Zuckerberg, so the issue doesn’t come up much. 

“It’s a question of materiality,” Bryan Westhoff, an attorney at Polsinelli, told Bloomberg. “Is it material to a reasonable investor to know what the executives are doing? Is there danger and uniqueness to it? MMA is something that most of us don’t do.”

Meta, as shown in its annual report this week, decided to go ahead with a warning. 

In another Instagram post in October, Zuckerberg showed followers his scratched-up face after a fight, writing: “Sparring got a little out of hand. May need to update my avatar.”

Discussing jiu-jitsu on the Lex Fridman Podcast seven months ago, he said of the sport, “You only get into a bad situation if you’re not willing to tap once you’ve already lost.” He noted, “I’m a pretty competitive person,” adding about a recent match, “I didn’t want to lose.”

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