June 17, 2024

Meta’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is leaving the company after 14 years, she announced Wednesday in a Facebook post.

Sandberg will be replaced by Javier Olivan, the company’s current chief growth officer, after a transition period this summer. She will continue to serve on the Board of Directors.

“I am not entirely sure what the future will bring,” Sandberg wrote on Facebook. “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.”

Sandberg has been with the company since 2008, and has often been credited with helping shephard it from the business Mark Zuckerberg started in his dorm room to a $100 billion publicly traded company. She led the company through tumult as it faced questions over the spread of misinformation and even personal turmoil in her life after the death of her husband in 2015.

Zuckerberg said Sandberg leaving the company is “the end of an era.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey And Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg Testify To Senate Committee On Foreign Influence Operations
Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg testifies during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign influence operations’ use of social media platforms, on Capitol Hill, September 5, 2018.

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

“When Sheryl joined me in 2008, I was only 23 years old and I barely knew anything about running a company,” Zuckerberg said, adding that Sandberg “deserves the credit for so much of what Meta is today.”

Meta said Sandberg was instrumental in implementing benefits programs for women including paid leave, bereavement leave, support for employees who want to delay having a family, and paid leave for employees who are survivors of domestic violence. 

The company has grown tremendously since Sandberg joined in 2008. It went from 500 employees to nearly 80,000 and increased its monthly active users from 100 million to 3 billion. 

But amid scrutiny that it prioritized profits over user safety, Zuckerberg announced a full rebrand of the company last year, changing the name to Meta and shifting focus to building virtual reality products. 

Thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents provided to Congress by whistleblower Frances Haugen last year revealed that executives at Meta were aware of the harms caused by its products and did little to make changes. 

The internal research documents showed Meta leaders were aware its technology recommends content to users that can lead them down a rabbit hole of misinformation and conspiracy theories. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as vaccine hesitancy spread, the documents revealed that executives knew about “rampant” comments regarding vaccine hesitancy.  

Meta refuted allegations that it prioritized profits over safety at the time, telling CBS News “the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety and well-being misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie.”

On Wednesday, Sandberg acknowledged the challenges she’s faced at the company.

“The debate around social media has changed beyond recognition since those early days. To say it hasn’t always been easy is an understatement. But it should be hard,” Sandberg said Wednesday. “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.”

In April, the Wall Street Journal reported that Sandberg was facing internal scrutiny at Meta for allegedly pressing the Daily Mail in 2016 and 2019 to not report a damaging story about her then-boyfriend, Activision Blizzard chief executive Bobby Kotick. 

Despite the recent controversies, Sandberg said she is “especially proud” that “women and people from diverse backgrounds have risen through our ranks and become leaders.”

While Olivan will have the same title that Sandberg had, Zuckerberg said he doesn’t plan to replace Sandberg’s role in the company’s existing structure. 

“Meta has reached a 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 said.

Olivan, who’s been working at Meta since 2007, said in a Facebook post that his new role will not have the same “public-facing aspect” as Sanderberg’s. 

“One of my biggest priorities will be to ensure that the business products and partnerships sides of our company are in lockstep,” Olivan said. 

Meta’s stock, which has lost nearly 40% of its value in the last six months, was down more than 2.5% on Wednesday. 

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