Facebook assets frozen as man claims majority ownership

Posted by Emma Woollacott

A New York man has filed a lawsuit claiming he owns 84 percent of Facebook and the money it's made since 2004.

Paul D Ceglia says he signed a deal with Mark Zuckerberg in April 2003 to design and develop the website that ultimately turned into Facebook. The contract, he says, gave him $1,000 and a 50 percent stake in the company.

And he claims that this stake was increased through a provision in one clause, so that it now gives him a majority share.

"Under Paragraph 3 of the contract, the Seller and Purchaser agreed that for each day after January 1, 2004, the Purchaser would acquire an additional 1% interest, per day, until the website was completed," the lawsuit reads.

This would mean Ceglia receiving a further 34 percent stake in the company.

Ceglia filed his suit in the Supreme Court of New York's Allegany County on June 30, and has won a state court order temporarily restricting Facebook from disposing of its assets.

Facebook has had the case transferred to federal court in Buffalo. It's arguing that the suit is frivolous, and that in any case the deal was signed so long ago that it's almost certainly barred by the Statute of Limitations - which runs for six years in New York.

The timing of the alleged contract is also doubtful. While the suit refers to the website as 'The Page Book' or 'The Face Book', Zuckerberg has been pretty widely profiled in both books and a film, and is generally depicted as having started work on the site in September 2003. The domain thefacebook.com wasn't registered until January 2004.

Ceglia is no stranger to the courts. Last year he was accused of having defrauded customers of his wood fuel pellet company in a case which is still ongoing.