Sheryl Sandberg is stepping down as chief operating officer of Facebook-parent Meta, the company confirmed on Wednesday.
In a post on Facebook, Sandberg did not disclose the reason for her departure from the company, which will take place in the fall. Sandberg said she planned to focus on her philanthropic work going forward. She has worked for the company for 14 years.
"The debate around social media has changed beyond recognition since those early days. To say it hasn't always been easy is an understatement," Sandberg wrote.
"But it should be hard. 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."
Sandberg will continue to serve on the company's board of directors, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a separate Facebook post.
Javier Olivan, the company's Chief Growth Officer, will become its next COO, but his role will be "different from what Sheryl has done" and "a more traditional COO role," Zuckerberg added.
"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 organised separately from our products," he said.
End of an era after a long partnership
Sandberg was already a high-profile figure in the tech industry when she joined Facebook, having been Google's vice president of global online sales and operations. Prior to Google, she had held senior roles at the World Bank and the Treasury Department under President Bill Clinton. In those early years at Facebook, she was often referred to as the adult supervision for a company run by a very young founder.
"When Sheryl joined me in 2008, I was only 23 years old and I barely knew anything about running a company," Zuckerberg said in his post. "We'd built a great product – the Facebook website – but we didn't yet have a profitable business and we were struggling to transition from a small startup to a real organisation."
In partnership with Zuckerberg, Sandberg helped grow Facebook's revenue from roughly $150 million in 2007 to more than $3.7 billion in 2011, the year before it went public. She also gained new prominence as one of the most influential women in tech.
That reputation was burnished by her work launching the 'Lean In' movement, offering a plan for how women can succeed and achieve their goals.
"Sheryl architected our ads business, hired great people, forged our management culture, and taught me how to run a company. She created opportunities for millions of people around the world, and she deserves the credit for so much of what Meta is today," Zuckerberg wrote.
But Sandberg also presided over Facebook as it shifted from being one of Silicon Valley's most exciting new ventures to being a scandal-prone organisation, accused of everything from undermining democracy to abetting genocide. Along with Zuckerberg, Sandberg faced growing challenges from policymakers and the public alike on misinformation, allegations of political bias, and looming government regulation – forcing her to answer questions she may not have foreseen when she first agreed to join the company.
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To help manage the public policy part of Facebook's business, the company hired Nick Clegg as head of global affairs in 2018. While the former UK deputy prime minister reported to Sandberg, it also meant relieving Sandberg of a portion of her portfolio and reducing her profile – which, according to a 2021 report by the New York Times, partly highlighted a rift between Sandberg and Zuckerberg that had emerged during the Trump administration and only widened over time. (Facebook disputed the Times' characterisation of their relationship.)
Over the years, there have been rumors that Sandberg would leave. In 2018, Zuckerberg said Sandberg wasn't going anywhere and noted that he hoped "we work together for decades more to come."
In his post Wednesday, Zuckerberg said: "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."