MANILA, Philippines – After a 14-year term as chief operating officer (COO) of the parent company of Facebook Meta, Cheryl Sandberg on Thursday confirmed her impending departure from the company.
The second most influential CEO of the social media giant and one of the most influential women in Silicon Valley said on Thursday that he would retire from Meta this fall as he faces an uncertain future and fierce competition.
“Today I share the news that I will leave Meta in 14 years,” Sandberg wrote on Facebook. “I am extremely grateful to the thousands of brilliant, dedicated people at Meta with whom I have had the privilege of working for the past 14 years.”
Sandberg, whose leadership helped steer scandal-prone Facebook to advertising dominance, also said he would continue to serve on the board of directors while redirecting more time to his foundation and philanthropic work.
The 52-year-old CEO of Meta also stressed the company’s responsibility to develop its products in a way that protects the privacy of its customers.
“The social media debate has changed beyond recognition since those early days. To say that it has not always been easy is an understatement. But it must be difficult, “Sandberg said. “I know that Meta’s exceptional team will continue to work tirelessly to meet these challenges and continue to make our company and our community better.”
A more “traditional” COO
In a post on his Facebook page, Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg recalled his experience working with Sandberg. He also had no intention of replacing her, noting how she “defines the role of chief operating officer in her own unique way.”
“I think Meta has reached the point where it makes sense for our product and business groups to be more closely integrated, instead of all business and operational functions being organized separately from our products,” he said.
“She taught me so much and was there in many important moments in my life, both personally and professionally,” Zuckerberg said. “I’m going to miss running this company with Cheryl.”
With that in mind, Zuckerberg has announced that former Meta growth director Javier Olivan will take over as chief operating officer who is “different from what Cheryl did.”
“This will be a more traditional role of chief operating officer, with Xavi focusing internally and operationally, building on his strong experience in making our implementation more efficient and rigorous,” he explained.
From startup to a multibillion-dollar empire
Educated as a Harvard CEO, Sandberg joined Facebook in 2008, when it was still just a start-up, playing a formative role in its development into a multibillion-dollar advertising empire.
“Fourteen years later, it’s time to write the next chapter of my life,” Sandberg said. “I’m not entirely sure what the future holds – I’ve learned that no one is ever like that.”
Her work has made her not only a recognizable face in technology, but also a name, especially thanks to her 2013 book, Lean Back: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.
The bestseller encourages women to “lean” towards their careers in order to reach their full potential and overcome the obstacles of the workforce.
He drew applause from fans for formulating a new modern feminist vision and harsh criticism from detractors who said her lofty position had kept her from touching the grueling personal cost of combining career and family.
The social network has recently rebranded towards the belief that the Internet is heading towards becoming an immersive virtual world called the metaverse.
Legacy of allowing trolls, harassment
The Colossus Valley colossus has seen his image tarnished by accusations that he has profited from consumer privacy and even the good of society.
“Sandberg is leaving Meta and the social media environment that Facebook helped create in a much worse place than she found it,” said Angelo Caruson, president of Media Matters for America.
“Her legacy allows for trolling, harassment and abuse.”
Meanwhile, people like TikTok, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and even Apple are now fighting Meta for people’s online attention, as the Facebook platform is increasingly seen as a place for the elderly.
Meta shares fell more than two percent after the news that Sandberg was leaving, another blow to the value of the shares, which collapsed due to fears that the company’s regular growth is coming to an end.
Facebook was about four years old when Sandberg appeared on the board as a mature, leading arm in a technology company with the motto “move fast and break things.”
“I was only 23 years old and knew almost nothing about running a company,” Zuckerberg said.
“Cheryl is architecting our advertising business, hiring great people, building our management culture and teaching me how to run a company.”
Zuckerberg’s farewell to Sandberg gave Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi the feeling that he believed he had outgrown her.
“It seems that this connection is no longer needed or does not work,” Milanesi told AFP.
Contradiction with George Soros
Sandberg, long considered an “adult” in the young company, has been at the center of controversy over her role in repelling criticism of the social media giant.
Sandberg caused the fire in particular because of an embarrassing effort to investigate George Soros, a billionaire investor, after he attacked the online network as a “threat to society.”
Facebook acknowledged that Sandberg had asked employees to conduct a survey of the Hungarian-born billionaire following his remarks, fearing he held a “short” position that would benefit from the stock’s decline.
Among the children involved in technology, Sandberg offered a more stable hand as a result of his work for former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and the philanthropic section of Google.
Sandberg was devastated in 2015 by the sudden death of her husband, US chief technology officer David Goldberg, in a luxury resort in Mexico.
Two years ago, she announced her engagement to marketing director Tom Bernthal.
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