In the ongoing saga that's part mystery (will Zuckerberg take his $50 billion firm public?), part romance (how much does Goldman really love Facebook and its prospects for growth?), part courtroom drama (the Winklevoss tools, etc.), part horror story (is the next bubble right around the corner?), part comedy (are we really giving this much print and air space to a firm so devoid of social value as Facebook?), and part coming-of-age tale (Mark Zuckerberg is, whether you like it or not, the heir to Bill and Warren), now there's this: investment documents involved in the Goldman deal outline plans for a Facebook IPO by 2012.
Of course, on Wall Street, there is one large, looming question if an initial public offering of said social network is indeed how the final act plays out: who will lead?
With a small but not insignificant percentage of the total dollar amount of Facebook shares ultimately offered on the line, the fee for leading the Facebook initial public offering, likely the largest in U.S. history, could be in the eight, if not nine figures. (If football is a game of inches, it can be said that investment banking is a game of tenths of percentages.)
Goldman, it would seem, has an inside track on the Facebook IPO; in addition to its recent cuddling up with Zuckerberg & Co., it has led two of the five largest U.S. IPOs to date: Deutsche Telekom's $13 billion IPO in 1996, and AT&T Wireless' $10.6 billion IPO in 2000.
Still, do not rule out Goldman's competitors just yet. Larger U.S. initial offerings have been led by J.P. Morgan (Visa's $17.9 billion offering in 2008), Merrill Lynch (ENEL SpA's $16.5 billion offering in 1990), and Morgan Stanley (GM's $15.8 billion offering in 2010).