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'Russian Facebook' Owner Starts Street Riot With Flying Money

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You’d think the disastrous Facebook (FB) IPO -- that seems to be dragging down a handful of other stocks including, Groupon (GRPN), Yelp (YELP), and Zynga (ZNGA), and is even now threatening to puncture the entire tech bubble -- would have begun to humble other Internet companies, specifically those in the social network game.

Not so overseas, where the so-called Russian Zuckerberg is literally throwing money out of the window. Pavel Durov, the 27-year-old multimillionaire founder of the online community and Facebook knockoff called VKontakte, made it rain on the lowly citizens of St. Petersburg when he flew paper airplanes constructed of 5,000 ruble-notes from an upper floor of his office. The value of each bill is the equivalent of about $160 USD.

Employees of VKontakte, which translates as “in contact” and is worth an estimated $260 million, joined in their leader’s antics. “The colleagues took great joy watching the crowd's reaction,” reported local news organization, Russia Today. They were seen laughing and taking video of the scene.

But when a country has been mired in a more than five-year recession with a current per capita GDP of $13,650 (more than $4,000 less than Greece), its people tend not to be on their best behavior when they witness free money whizzing in their direction. This was apparently lost on Durov in his “Let them eat cake” moment. He was surprised by the chaos and violence that quickly ensued as people clambered for the flying rubles -- scaling street poles, breaking each other’s noses, etc.  

“We had to stop soon, though, as people turned into animals,” Durov later tweeted. “Definitely, more such actions are to follow.” The VKontakte owner claimed he was only trying to create “a festive atmosphere” on the St. Petersburg’s street in honor of the founding “Day of the City” holiday. The oblivious group managed to dole out roughly $2,000 to the masses before all was said and done.

Some likened the act to a sick social experiment. “5,000 rubles is a big sum for many people,” wrote one witness. “It was too cruel to throw away such money and watch how others behave.”

“Shame on Durov!” said another.

Of course, if VKontakte’s fortune goes the way of Facebook, its staff may someday find themselves on the street with their own hands outstretched. 
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.