Jun 1, 2022 - Technology

Sheryl Sandberg leaving Meta after 14 years

Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Meta's longtime chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is leaving the company she helped build after 14 years, she announced in a Facebook post Wednesday. Sources say the decision was Sandberg's.

Why it matters: Under Sandberg's leadership, Facebook parent company Meta grew to be one of the most powerful technology companies in the world. But in recent years, Sandberg became one of the public faces of many of Facebook's biggest controversies, including Russia's efforts to meddle in the 2016 election, the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal and most recently the leaked document trove known as the Facebook Files.

Details: In a Facebook post, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is promoting Javier Olivan to Sandberg's position as chief operating officer but noted that "this role will be different."

  • "It will be a more traditional COO role ... internally and operationally," he said.
  • Olivan will lead Meta's integrated ads and business products in addition to continuing to lead its infrastructure, integrity, analytics, marketing, corporate development and growth teams, Zuckerberg said.
  • Sandberg will continue to serve on Meta’s board of directors.

Zuckerberg also announced a leadership reorganization in conjunction with the news.

  • Marne Levine, the executive who handles all of Meta's advertising and business partnerships as chief business officer, will report to Olivan.
  • Molly Cutler, Meta's VP of strategic response, will also join Olivan's team and report to Naomi Gleit, Meta's head of product.
  • Instagram's COO and Meta's operations VP, Justin Osofsky, will take on an expanded role overseeing AI-based content recommendation systems for Facebook and Instagram. He will report to Meta's chief product officer Chris Cox.

Between the lines: Much of Sandberg's 1,500-word post describes her close relationship with Zuckerberg, who was 23 when he hired Sandberg as his deputy. Sandberg at the time was 38 and was leaving a high-level role at Google to take a chance on the young CEO.

  • "Sitting by Mark’s side for these 14 years has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime," Sandberg wrote.
  • "Mark is a true visionary and a caring leader. He sometimes says that we grew up together, and we have. ... In the critical moments of my life, in the highest highs and in the depths of true lows, I have never had to turn to Mark, because he was already there."
  • Zuckerberg also reflected on their relationship, noting, "It's unusual for a business partnership like ours to last so long. I think ours did because Sheryl is such an amazing person, leader, partner and friend."

The big picture: Sandberg's impact on Silicon Valley extends beyond her work with Meta. Most notably, she has in the past decade positioned herself as a champion of women in technology and in the workforce.

  • Supported by Zuckerberg, she said, "I found my voice to ... talk about the challenges women face in the workplace. My hope was to make this a bit easier for others and help more women believe they can and should lead."

What's next: Sandberg said she aims to focus on more philanthropic work, but didn't spell out exact plans for her next role.

  • "I am not entirely sure what the future will bring — I have learned no one ever is. 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."
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