Here is some advice for Eduardo Saverin and misunderstood billionaires everywhere: Just. Be. Quiet.
Stung by criticism that he relinquished his U.S. citizenship to evade tax on his fortune, Mr. Saverin gave an interview to the New York Times. He no doubt believed that a sit-down with a Times reporter to “set the record straight” would reverse the impression that he is lucky, greedy and aimless. It did not.
He comes across as, well, lost:
Of all the founders, Mr. Saverin has had perhaps the greatest difficulty figuring out how to build on what is likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
On the tax issue, Mr. Saverin essentially confirms reports that he wanted to avoid paying U.S. tax by giving up his citizenship and establishing residence in Singapore. He also awkwardly tries to explain how he has been spending his time and money since leaving Facebook:
What has gotten attention, though, is his billionaire playboy lifestyle in glittering Singapore. Thanks to the interconnected world Mr. Saverin helped to create, the Internet is full of people sharing photos and stories of him embraced by statuesque women and drinking expensive Champagne. “It’s a misperception, especially the playboy,” he said. “I do have a Bentley. I do go out. I’d rather not go into personal details.”
Oh, and that movie was all wrong about him, too:
He also said the depiction of him in the movie “The Social Network” was distorted. “It was more art than documentary,” he said. As to his purported betrayal by Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, the dramatic core of the movie, Mr. Saverin said: “There was no burning there. Mark is a phenomenal guy.”
Mr. Saverin is not alone in having a misplaced belief in his own persuasive powers.
Corporate chieftains, hedge-fund titans and technology wizards often believe that with enough time, coffee and charm, a reporter can be persuaded to take a sympathetic view of their plight. If it’s People magazine, maybe; but not The New York Times.
The better course for Mr. Saverin would be to do something useful – start another wildly successful company or give a bundle to charity or support a cause he feels passionate about. All of that is much tougher than a press interview, of course.
The lesson is, until you change the facts, don’t expect a different story. Until then, please suffer a little adverse press coverage quietly and in the comfort of your enormous yacht.