Sheryl Sandberg Steps Down From Facebook’s Parent Company, Meta – The New York Times

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The longtime chief operating officer of Facebook’s parent company, Ms. Sandberg has had a lower profile during Mark Zuckerberg’s pursuit of the so-called metaverse.
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Mike IsaacSheera Frenkel and
Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel, who are based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Cecilia Kang, who is based in Washington, have covered Facebook for a combined 33 years.
When Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, recruited a Google executive named Sheryl Sandberg to his social network in 2008, he said he had hired her because “she has just about the most relevant industry experience for Facebook, especially since we need to scale our operations and scale them globally.”
Ms. Sandberg answered in kind. “The opportunity to help another young company to grow into a global leader is the opportunity of a lifetime,” she said at the time.
Mr. Zuckerberg was 23, and Ms. Sandberg was 38.
Today Mr. Zuckerberg is the same age that Ms. Sandberg was when he brought her on board, and Facebook has ballooned into a behemoth. Over the past year, Mr. Zuckerberg has begun taking the social network into a new direction — toward the immersive online world of the so-called metaverse — and renamed the company Meta. And Ms. Sandberg, 52, has increasingly lowered her profile as Mr. Zuckerberg has taken over more of her responsibilities and reorganized the company for its new chapter.
On Wednesday, Ms. Sandberg said she was leaving Meta — which also owns Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger — this fall. In an interview, she said she had expected to be at the company only for roughly five years rather than the 14 she has served. She added that she planned to focus on her personal philanthropy and her foundation, Lean In, and that this summer she would marry Tom Bernthal, a television producer.
“I believe in this company,” said Ms. Sandberg, who will remain on Meta’s board. “Have we gotten everything right? Absolutely not. Have we learned and listened and grown and invested where we need to? This team has and will.”
Ms. Sandberg’s decision to leave Meta was her own, and she informed Mr. Zuckerberg in a phone call over the weekend, two of her employees said. Ms. Sandberg wanted Mr. Zuckerberg, who was in Hawaii, to be the first to know, one of the people said.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Mr. Zuckerberg praised Ms. Sandberg, saying it was “unusual for a business partnership like ours to last so long.” He named Javier Olivan, a longtime product executive who has overseen much of Facebook’s growth over the past decade, as Meta’s next chief operating officer.
Ms. Sandberg is ending her tenure at Meta far from the reputational pinnacle she reached last decade. A Harvard graduate who served as the chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers during the Clinton administration, she made her name in Silicon Valley by helping to build Google’s nascent targeted ads business into a multibillion-dollar juggernaut.
After joining Facebook, she developed its advertising business and was regarded as the adult in the room. Ms. Sandberg helped create some of Facebook’s advertising formats for desktop computers, before successfully building its mobile advertising strategy.
By 2016, Facebook’s revenue was $27.6 billion, compared with the $153 million it generated in 2007 before Ms. Sandberg joined. The ads business remains Meta’s main financial engine.
Ms. Sandberg’s reputation grew with the 2013 publication of her feminist business book, “Lean In,” a manifesto for working women based on her experience in government and business. It became a best seller and launched her personal brand, though some critics said Ms. Sandberg’s advice came from a life of privilege.
But after the 2016 presidential election, Facebook faced intense scrutiny for how it was misused to stoke division and to spread misinformation. Ms. Sandberg, who was responsible for the policy and security team at the company during that election, initially ignored the issues and then delayed a public response.
In 2018, the social network also became embroiled in a privacy scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, a voter-profiling firm that improperly used Facebook data. Ms. Sandberg, who was in charge of public relations, was held responsible for the fallout and muddled response on the matter.
Though they presented a unified front to the public, Mr. Zuckerberg grew frustrated with Ms. Sandberg’s responses to the crises. Ms. Sandberg privately told members of her staff that she didn’t agree with some of his decisions on content.
Mr. Zuckerberg, who holds the majority of voting shares at the company, became more engaged in policy. He made final decisions on speech, including the decision in 2021 to remove President Donald J. Trump from the site after the Jan. 6 riots. He also began taking a higher public profile and over time assumed more of a role overseeing different parts of the company, some of which had been under Ms. Sandberg’s sole purview.
Questions about toxic content, privacy and antitrust violations continued to dog the company, which nonetheless reached a market value of $1 trillion.
Ms. Sandberg flirted with leaving Facebook. In 2016, she told colleagues that if Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, won the White House she would most likely assume a job in Washington, three people who spoke to her about the move at the time said. In 2018, after revelations about Cambridge Analytica and Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, she again told colleagues that she was considering leaving but did not want to do so when the company was in crisis.
Last year, Mr. Zuckerberg said his company was making a new bet and was going all in on the metaverse, which he called “the successor to the mobile internet.” In his announcement, Ms. Sandberg made only a cameo, while other executives were more prominently featured.
As Mr. Zuckerberg overhauled the company to focus on the metaverse, some of Ms. Sandberg’s responsibilities were spread among other executives. Nick Clegg, the president of global affairs and a former British deputy prime minister, became the company’s chief spokesman, a role that Ms. Sandberg had once taken. In February, Mr. Clegg was promoted to president of global affairs for Meta.
Ms. Sandberg’s profile dimmed. She concentrated on building the ads business and growing the number of small businesses on Facebook.
She was also focused on personal matters. Dave Goldberg, her husband, had died unexpectedly in 2015. (Ms. Sandberg’s second book, “Option B,” was about dealing with grief.) She later met Mr. Bernthal, and he and his three children moved to her Silicon Valley home from Southern California during the pandemic. Ms. Sandberg, who had two children with Mr. Goldberg, was focused on integrating the families and planning for her summer wedding, a person close to her said.
Meta’s transition to the metaverse has not been easy. The company has spent heavily on metaverse products while its advertising business has stumbled, partly because privacy changes made by Apple have hurt targeted advertising. In February, Meta’s market value plunged more than $230 billion, its biggest one-day wipeout, after it reported financial results that showed it was struggling to make the leap to the metaverse.
In the interview, Ms. Sandberg said Meta faced near-term challenges but would weather the storm, as it had during past challenges. “When we went public, we had no mobile ads,” Ms. Sandberg said, citing the company’s rapid transition from desktop computers to smartphones last decade. “We have done this before.”
She added that joining Facebook back in 2008 was the “honor and privilege of a lifetime.”
In his Facebook post on Wednesday, Mr. Zuckerberg said Ms. Sandberg had been crucial to his company’s success.
“Sheryl architected our ads business, hired great people, forged our management culture, and taught me how to run a company,” he said.
He added: “It’s the end of an era.”
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