Altimeter Capital’s Brad Gerstner calls on Meta to slash headcount

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Altimeter Capital Chair and CEO Brad Gerstner said in an open letter to the company and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday that Meta has too many employees and is moving too slowly to retain the confidence of investors.

The Meta investor recommends a plan to get the company’s “mojo back” including reducing headcount expenses by 20% and limiting the company’s pricey investments in “metaverse” technology — VR software and hardware — to no more than $5 billion per year.

“Meta needs to re-build confidence with investors, employees and the tech community in order to attract, inspire, and retain the best people in the world,” Gerstner wrote in the letter. “In short, Meta needs to get fit and focused.”

The letter is the latest sign that Meta investors are starting to express reservations about the company’s recent performance. Meta stock is down over 61% in 2022 so far.

At the end of the second quarter this year, Altimeter Capital held over 2 million shares of Meta.

It’s also a vote of less confidence about the company’s ambitions in the world of virtual and augmented reality. Meta changed its company name from Facebook to better focus on its VR hardware and software, and is spending $10 billion per year on the technology.

On Oct. 11, Meta announced a new high-end VR headset, the Quest Pro. However, there are few signs that VR or some of Meta’s metaverse apps, like Horizon Worlds, are catching on with the public beyond early adopters.

“In addition, people are confused by what the metaverse even means,” Gerstner wrote. “If the company were investing $1–2B per year into this project, then that confusion might not even be a problem.”

He says that the estimated fortune that the company is currently spending to develop VR could take a decade to come to fruition.

“An estimated $100B+ investment in an unknown future is super-sized and terrifying, even by Silicon Valley standards,” Gerstner wrote.

Ultimately, Gerstner believes that Meta has too many people and is spending too much on capital expenditures. If Meta was able to control those costs, the investor says, then it could double its free cash flow, and improve its share price.

He argues that a 20% cut in employee spending would take Meta back to the levels of staffing it had last year, and that the company can’t spend as it used to since the cost of capital and interest rates have risen recently.

In the letter, Gerstner says that Altimeter Capital doesn’t have demands and simply wants to engage with Meta management. Meta didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

“But far from being a bad decision, we think the recommendations outlined above will lead to a leaner, more productive, and more focused company — a company that regains its confidence and momentum,” Gerstner wrote.

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