Sheryl Sandberg stepping down as COO of Meta


Sheryl Sandberg, the No. 2 executive at Facebook’s parent company, Meta, is stepping down.

Sandberg, who helped turn Facebook from startup to digital advertising empire while also taking blame for some of its biggest missteps along the way, has served as chief operating officer at the social media giant for 14 years.

She joined from Google in 2008, four years before Facebook went public.

“When I took this job in 2008, I hoped I would be in this role for five years. Fourteen years later, it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life,” Sandberg wrote on her Facebook page Wednesday.

Sandberg has led Facebook — now Meta’s — advertising business and was responsible for nurturing it from its infancy into an over $100 billion US-a-year powerhouse.

As the company’s second most-recognized face — after CEO Mark Zuckerberg — Sandberg has also become a polarizing figure amid revelations of how some of her business decisions for Facebook helped propagate misinformation and hate speech.

The early public face of FB

As one of the most prominent female executives in the tech industry, she was also often criticized for not doing enough for women and others harmed by Facebook’s products. Her public-speaking expertise, her seemingly effortless ability to bridge the worlds of tech, business and politics served as a sharp contrast to Zuckerberg, especially in Facebook’s early years.

But Zuckerberg has since been catching up, trained in part by his apperances before several congressional hearings into Facebook’s practices.

Neither Sandberg nor Zuckerberg gave any indication that Sandberg’s resignation wasn’t her decision. But she’s also appeared somewhat sidelined in recent years, with other executives close to Zuckerberg, such as Chris Cox — who returned in 2020 as chief product officer after a yearlong break from the company — becoming more prominent.

“Sheryl Sandberg had an enormous impact on Facebook, Meta and the broader business world,” said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at Insider Intelligence. “She helped Facebook build a world-class ad-buying platform and develop groundbreaking ad formats.”

But, said Williamson, Facebook also faced “huge scandals” under Sandberg’s watch for its role in the spread of misinformation during the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol and privacy breaches related to the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica in 2018.

Today, Meta is “facing a slowdown in user growth and ad revenue that is now testing the business foundation that the company was built on,” she said. “The company needs to find a new way forward, and perhaps this was the best time for Sandberg to depart.”

A changing role

Sandberg is leaving Meta in the fall and will continue to serve on the company’s board.

Zuckerberg said in his own Facebook post that Javier Olivan, who currently oversees key functions at Meta’s four main apps — Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger — will serve as Meta’s new COO. But it will be a different job than the one Sandberg held for the past 14 years.

“It will be a more traditional COO role where Javi will be focused internally and operationally, building on his strong track record of making our execution more efficient and rigorous,” Zuckerberg wrote.

While Sandberg has long been Zuckerberg’s No. 2, even sitting next to him — pre-pandemic, at least — in the company’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, she also had a very public-facing job, meeting with lawmakers, holding focus groups and speaking out on issues such as women in the workplace and most recently, abortion.

“I think Meta has reached the point where it makes sense for our product and business groups to be more closely integrated, rather than having all the business and operations functions organized separately from our products,” Zuckerberg wrote.

Sandberg, who lost her husband, Dave Goldberg, suddenly in 2015, said she is “not entirely sure what the future will bring.”

“But I know it will include focusing more on my foundation and philanthropic work, which is more important to me than ever given how critical this moment is for women,” she wrote.

She said she is getting married this summer to strategic consultant Tom Bernthal and that parenting their expanded family of five children will also be a part of this future.

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