Meta’s second most powerful executive Sheryl Sandberg made the shock announcement Wednesday she will leave after a 14-year tenure that included helping steer scandal-prone Facebook to advertising dominance.
Sandberg, 52, has been one of the most influential women in Silicon Valley and her departure comes as the social media juggernaut faces an uncertain future and fierce competition.
Her departure from Facebook parent Meta will be effective in the fall, she wrote on the platform, adding she planned to remain on the firm’s board.
A Harvard-educated and experienced executive, she joined Facebook in 2008 while it was startup and guided the progression toward a multi-billion dollar advertising empire.
“Fourteen years later, it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life,” she wrote. “I am not entirely sure what the future will bring – I have learned no one ever is.”
Her job made her a recognizable face of the tech world elite as did her 2013 book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”, a treatise on empowerment.
Sandberg’s departure news comes as what started as an online social network has rebranded itself to pivot toward the virtual vision it sees for the internet in the form of the metaverse.
The Silicon Valley colossus has seen its image tainted by accusations it has been doing harm, putting profit over user privacy and even the good of society.
Meanwhile, the likes of TikTok, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and even Apple now vie with Meta for people’s online attention as Facebook social network is increasingly seen as a place for older people.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the role Sandberg held at the company will be re-shaped, with Javier Olivan to become Meta’s next chief operating officer.
The next COO will be more traditional, different from the close second-in-command status Sandberg holds, Zuckerberg said.
“She has taught me so much and she has been there for many of the important moments in my life, both personally and professionally,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.
“I’m going to miss running this company with Sheryl.”
Meta shares fell more than two percent on word that Sandberg was leaving, another blow to a stock value that has plummeted after worries emerged the company’s regular growth was coming to an end.
Facebook was about four years old when Sandberg came on board as a mature, guiding hand at a tech firm with a motto “move fast and break things.”
“I was only 23 years old and I barely knew anything about running a company,” Zuckerberg said.
“Sheryl architected our ads business, hired great people, forged our management culture, and taught me how to run a company.”
Zuckerberg’s farewell to Sandberg gave Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi a sense that he believes he has outgrown her.
“It feels like that relationship is no longer needed or working,” Milanesi told AFP.
Zuckerberg last week was named personally in a Washington lawsuit alleging he played a direct role in decisions that set the stage for the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.
The US capital’s attorney general argues that Zuckerberg was closely involved in conceiving the framework that allowed the Britain-based consulting firm to harvest over 70 million US Facebook users’ data.
A whistleblower revealed in 2018 that Cambridge Analytica went on to use that data for political purposes, including trying to rally support for Donald Trump.
US authorities imposed what they described as a “historic” $5 billion fine on Facebook in the wake of the scandal, and also required Facebook to ramp up privacy protections.