Developer suing Zuckerberg says email shows offer of help

A property developer who sued billionaire Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly failing to assist him with business networking as part of a real estate deal produced an email mentioning that the Facebook Inc. founder offered to help him in a “light” way.

The email and others filed in a lawsuit against Zuckerberg show the executive knew he made the promise and reneged on it, David Draper, the attorney for developer Mircea Voskerician, said in court filings.

Voskerician says he gave the Facebook chief executive officer a 40 percent discount in 2012 on a $4.3 million property located behind Zuckerberg’s Palo Alto, California, home because he was promised introductions and referrals to boost his business. After trying and failing to reach Zuckerberg, Voskerician sued in state court in San Jose, California, to get the house back, claiming fraud, breach of contract and misrepresentation, according to the complaint.

The emails disclosed yesterday, some of which were copied to a Facebook vice president of marketing, show an associate of Zuckerberg feared the developer was becoming a security or public relations risk.

“I just had a quick chat with Mark on this issue — and he said he does remember saying that he would help this guy in a ‘light’ way,” Andrea Besmehn, whose employment affiliation wasn’t revealed in the email chain, wrote in a Nov. 4, 2013, message. “Is there a way when we chat with him that we can find out a way for us (not necessarily Mark) to help him with something small? Also…we’ll have to manage this carefully because we don’t want to give an inch and then…”

‘PR Standpoint’

Besmehn was Zuckerberg’s assistant, Draper said in a filing. In a separate message on the same day, Besmehn wrote that she wanted to raise the issue “before it escalates from either a security or PR standpoint,” adding that it “sounds like he has some expectation about Mark helping him out.” Besmehn noted that she also copied the message to a Facebook security official.

Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive Divesh Makan, who now works at Iconiq Capital LLC, is also copied on the messages and figures prominently in what Draper said in the court filing was a plan to get Voskerician to go away. Makan tells Besmehn in an email that his team will “hear his story,” referring to Voskerician.

“We have no interest in doing anything with him, but this will hopefully put his desire to meet with Mark to bed,” Makan wrote, according to the court filing.

Draper is seeking to add Makan and Iconiq as defendants in the lawsuit under a claim of conspiracy to commit fraud. Makan didn’t immediately respond to a phone message left for him at Iconiq’s San Francisco office seeking comment on the filing.

No Basis

Zuckerberg’s lawyers have argued the lawsuit has no basis in law or fact. The developer won an early round in the case last month when a judge provisionally refused Zuckerberg’s request to dismiss it.

“We don’t think the lawsuit has any merit whatsoever and we will defend our clients vigorously,” Patrick Gunn, Zuckerberg’s attorney, said by phone.

Genevieve Grdina, a spokeswoman for Menlo Park, California- based Facebook, declined to comment on the court filing.

The case is Voskerician v. Zuckerberg, 114CV264667, Superior Court of the California, County of Santa Clara (San Jose).

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