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    Sandberg, long Facebook’s No 2 exec, steps down

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Sheryl Sandberg, the number two executive at Facebook owner Meta, who helped turn its business from startup to digital advertising empire while also taking blame for some of its biggest missteps, is stepping down.

    Sandberg has served as Chief Operating Officer (COO) at the social media giant for 14 years. She joined from Google in 2008, four years before Facebook went public.

    “When I took this job in 2008, I hoped I would be in this role for five years. Fourteen years later, it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life,” Sandberg wrote on her Facebook page on Wednesday.

    Sandberg has led Facebook – now Meta’s – advertising business and was responsible for nurturing it from its infancy into an over USD100 billion-a-year powerhouse.

    As the company’s second most-recognised face – after CEO Mark Zuckerberg – Sandberg has also become a polarising figure amid revelations of how some of her business decisions for Facebook helped propagate misinformation and hate speech.

    Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. PHOTO: AP

    As one of the most prominent female executives in the tech industry, she was also often criticised for not doing enough both for women and for others harmed by Facebook’s products.

    Her public-speaking expertise, her seemingly effortless ability to bridge the worlds of tech, business and politics served as a sharp contrast to Zuckerberg, especially in Facebook’s early years.

    But Zuckerberg has since been catching up, trained in part for the several congressional hearings he’s been called to testify in to defend Facebook’s practices.

    Neither Sandberg nor Zuckerberg gave any indication that Sandberg’s resignation wasn’t her decision. But she’s also appeared somewhat sidelined in recent years, with other executives close to Zuckerberg, such as Chris Cox – who returned in 2020 as chief product officer after a yearlong break from the company -becoming more prominent.

    “Sheryl Sandberg had an enormous impact on Facebook, Meta, and the broader business world. She helped Facebook build a world-class ad-buying platform and develop groundbreaking ad formats,” said an analyst Debra Aho Williamson at Insider Intelligence.

    But she added that Facebook faced “huge scandals” under Sandberg’s watch – including the 2016 United States (US) presidential election, the Cambridge Analytica privacy debacle in 2018, and the 2021 riot at the US Capitol.

    And now, Meta is “facing a slowdown in user growth and ad revenue that is now testing the business foundation that the company was built on”, she said. “The company needs to find a new way forward, and perhaps this was the best time for Sandberg to depart.”

    Sandberg is leaving Meta in the fall and will continue to serve on the company’s board.

    Zuckerberg said in his own Facebook post that Javier Olivan, who currently oversees key functions at Meta’s four main apps – Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger – will serve as Meta’s new COO. But it will be a different job than the one Sandberg held for the
    past 14 years.

    “It will be a more traditional COO role where Javi will be focussed internally and operationally, building on his strong track record of making our execution more efficient and rigorous,” Zuckerberg wrote.

    While Sandberg has long been Zuckerberg’s number two, even sitting next to him – pre-pandemic, at least – in the company’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters, she also had a very public-facing job, meeting with lawmakers, holding focus groups and speaking out on issues such as women in the workplace.

    Sandberg, who lost her husband Dave Goldberg suddenly in 2015, said she is “not entirely sure what the future will bring”.

    “But I know it will include focussing more on my foundation and philanthropic work, which is more important to me than ever given how critical this moment is for women,” she wrote, adding that she is also getting married this summer and that parenting their expanded family of five children will also be a part of this future.

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