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Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg is stepping down

June 1, 2022, 7:52 PM UTC

Sheryl Sandberg is leaving her role as chief operating officer at Meta after 14 years with the company.

She announced her departure Wednesday on her own Facebook and Instagram pages, where she recounted her first meetings with founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and explained her decision to leave. 

“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,” she wrote in the post. 

Sandberg will be replaced this fall by current Chief Growth Officer Javier Olivan, Zuckerberg announced on Wednesday. Sandberg will continue to sit on Meta’s board of directors, a role she has held since 2012.

While praising Sandberg, Zuckerberg wrote that Olivan will not be a like-for-like replacement, and announced several adjustments of Meta’s upper management.

“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.

“These are all talented and experienced leaders who I’ve worked closely with over the years, and I’m confident they’ll continue to do great work in this new structure.”

Initially hired by Facebook, which became part of the Meta umbrella, Sandberg has been one of the most prominent women in tech for more than a decade, and is consistently included on lists of the most powerful women in business. Her 2013 business memoir, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, was a manifesto inviting women to take more initiative in their professional lives, and embodied a type of corporate feminism that was prevalent in the early part of the decade. 

Prior to joining Facebook, Sandberg had been responsible for online sales and advertising at Google. In her 14 years with the social media company, Sandberg has been credited with turning a startup that began in a dorm room into a social media juggernaut, and she changed the company’s direction by focusing on an ad-based revenue model. Meta currently has a market cap of over $500 billion, having briefly surpassed the $1 trillion mark last year.

In her departure note, Sandberg said that more than 200 million businesses currently use Meta products to advertise directly to their customers, many of which were able to grow through Meta’s apps, and affirmed that the company would continue to advertise for those businesses after her tenure ended.

“I also know that our platforms will continue to be an engine of growth for the businesses around the world that rely on us,” Sandberg wrote.

Sandberg’s tenure at the company was not without controversy. In 2018, she was called to testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee on Facebook’s role in spreading misinformation in the buildup to that year’s election. She defended Facebook, calling for closer cooperation between the company and the government, and in a Facebook post, admitted that she and Zuckerberg had been “too slow” in responding to allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

During her testimony, she also conceded that the company could have done more in countering disinformation spread on the platform during the persecution of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar by the country’s military, which resulted in thousands of deaths.

Sandberg also reportedly told Facebook director of security Alex Stamos that he “threw us under the bus” after he told the board that suspicious Russian activity on the platform during the 2016 U.S. presidential election was not resolved.

In 2018, Sandberg reportedly asked Facebook’s communications staff to research the finances of billionaire investor George Soros after he had called the company a “menace” to society and made calls for the company to be more strictly regulated.

Sandberg applied her monetization principles to other products acquired by Facebook, including messaging service WhatsApp and social media platform Instagram, a strategy that was not always well received. After Facebook completed its $19 billion takeover deal of WhatsApp in 2014, Sandberg and WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton had a highly public dispute over Facebook beginning to monetize the messaging app’s services.

Jan Koum, WhatsApp’s cofounder along with Acton, also left Facebook in 2018 after disagreements with executives including Sandberg over how the company was using customer data. 

In her note, Sandberg touched on the privacy concerns that have roiled the company, and pledged that Facebook would continue to prioritize security for its users.

“The products we make have a huge impact, so we have the responsibility to build them in a way that protects privacy and keeps people safe,” she wrote.

Sandberg wrote in her farewell letter that she was unsure what she would be doing next, but mentioned focusing on work with her foundations and her philanthropy. 

Meta’s stock dropped over 4% after Sandberg announced her departure Wednesday.

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