NY Man Says Documents Prove 50 Percent Ownership Of Facebook

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Facebook.com's mastermind Mark Zuckerberg smiles at his office in Palo Alto (AP)

Facebook.com’s mastermind Mark Zuckerberg smiles at his office in Palo Alto (AP)

PALO ALTO (CBS/AP) – A New York man who claims an ownership stake in Facebook is now seeking 50 percent of the site’s value from founder Mark Zuckerberg.

In his federal court complaint, Paul Ceglia said the e-mails show, in part, how Zuckerberg tried to get him to abandon his interest in Facebook by souring their business relationship in 2004, while at the same time downplaying the popularity of the site following its launch at Harvard University, where Zuckerberg was a student.

Zuckerberg is accused in the complaint of breaching his contract with Ceglia by incorporating the website first known as thefacebook.com without telling him.

Ceglia seeks a 50 percent share of the company, which has more than 500 million users worldwide. Forbes magazine last month estimated Zuckerberg’s net worth at $13.5 billion.

“Zuckerberg knowingly misrepresented to Ceglia that thefacebook.com was not successful, that he was too busy to deal with the website, that he had lost interest in the website and that he was shutting the website down,” according to the complaint, which amended Ceglia’s original complaint from last year.

Orin Snyder, an attorney for Facebook, called the claims “ridiculous.”

“This is a fraudulent lawsuit brought by a convicted felon and we look forward to defending it in court,” Snyder said in an e-mailed statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday. Ceglia was placed on probation in 1997 after pleading guilty to possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms, Panola County, Texas, court records show.

Ceglia’s amended filing in Buffalo on Monday came on the same day that a federal appeals court in San Francisco left in place a 2008 agreement settling a lawsuit by two former Harvard schoolmates of Zuckerberg who claimed he stole their idea to launch Facebook. The agreement called for Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss to receive a $20 million cash payment and a partial ownership of Facebook.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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