Well, it seems that they might have found a way out of this quandary. The rumor is that Facebook and Microsoft are chatting about the big M buying a minority stake ($500 million) in Facebook at an enormous valuation ($10b - $15b). Now I'm guessing two things about this deal: first, this will not be a $500 million direct cash infusion to Facebook. Rather, many investors and perhaps some of the founders will be selling shareholders in the deal and have at least a partial exit. Second, there will be a multi-year advertising contract associated with this (similar to the Google AOL deal). What that ad deal looks like is probably the crux of the negotiations (after all that's the only bit important to Microsoft), but I would guess there is some guaranteed level of revenue with it (although probably nowhere near the $900m/ 3 yr Google MySpace deal that was announced (but curiously still not signed) a while back.
From the investor's standpoint, this deal is a great move. They get a healthy return on their investment at a great valuation - and still keep a position in the company going forward. Likewise, the founders are happy as they will take money off the table. And the guaranteed revenue part of the ad deal insures the company has more operating capital going forward. So it's a win-win-win, right? Maybe.
Perhaps not if you're one of the non-cashed out employees or investors. They're still waiting for their checks to arrive. You know, the one's that would arrive if the company gets taken out completely. Instead, they find themselves in the very position I described in my first post on this: shareholders in a company who's valuation is high, but doesn't have the numbers to justify it. And if (as I am guessing it does) the Microsoft advertising contract has lots of exclusivity attached to it, this particular partial exit strategy is not repeatable. Actually come to think of it, with a multi-year exclusive ad contract with Microsoft, perhaps any non-Microsoft acquisition is now not plausible.
No, if you are a Facebook shareholder who doesn't make money on this deal, your money will have to wait until the company, like the rest of the industry, makes some real innovation on the display ad model, figuring out a way to pry some larger CPM's out of advertisers and actually put some revenue behind its very large audience. But, as I've already noted many times, that's not an easy task.