Influential tech executive Sheryl Sandberg, who played a larger than life role in shaping up Facebook as a profitable company, has announced her decision to quit after working with Mark Zuckerberg for 14 years.
The Meta Platforms chief operating officer made the shock announcement on Wednesday after building a career as one of the most influential women in Silicon Valley. "Fourteen years later, it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life ... I am not entirely sure what the future will bring -- I have learned no one ever is," Sandberg said in a statement.
The shares of Meta, which is Facebook's parent company, fell as much as 4 percent after Sandberg, 52, announced her resignation.
Why is Sandberg Quitting?
Sandberg has said she is leaving Meta to embark on the next chapter in her life, while also asserting that she will remain on the board of the company despite leaving the C-suite.
"I am not entirely sure what the future will bring â I have learned no one ever is ... 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," she said in a statement.
However. there have been tell-tale signs signaling the possibility of Sandberg leaving the company.
1. Relationship with Zuckerberg
Though Zuckerberg holds Sandberg in great esteem even now, the relationship between the two have never have been the same as it used to be in the initial years of explosive growth and expansion at Facebook. Zuckerberg had found in her a voice of maturity and a mentor as he navigated though the social media landscape in the initial years. However, of late, the Facebook founder has compelling reasons to believe that Sandberg had outgrown her.
Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi observed that the tone of the relationship had changed over the years and the company no longer required such a symbiotic relationship between the founder and COO. "It feels like that relationship is no longer needed or working," Milanesi told AFP, adding that Zuckerberg might have felt like she has outgrown her.
2. Internal Probe Over Daily Mail Row
Sandberg was hugely influential in the tech world but of late she has been at the center of some damaging controversies.
According to The Wall Street Journal Sandberg was facing an "internal scrutiny" at the company after allegations were raised about her role in an attempt to kill a Daily Mail story about her former boyfriend.
Sandberg came under fire for allegedly coercing the Daily Mail to drop a news story on her former boyfriend Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. Daily Mail's digital version, MailOnline had plans to report on a restraining order filed against Kotick in 2014 by an ex-girlfriend which prompted Sandberg to reach out to the British tabloid.
The Wall Street Journal published a report revealing that the Meta Executive contacted the Daily Mail on two separate occasions to kill the stories centering around the restraining order against Kotick.
3. Probe Against George Soros
In 2008, Facebook revealed that it had investigated billionaire George Soros over his possible reasons behind the criticism of the platform. Following Sosor's criticism, Sandberg had ordered a probe into Sosor's investment position in Facebook. Sandberg's conclusion was that Soros was possibly holding a short position on Facebook and intended to make financial gains from attacking the company.
"We researched potential motivations behind George Soros' criticism of Facebook in January 2018 ... Mr. Soros is a prominent investor and we looked into his investments and trading activity related to Facebook. That research was already underway when Sheryl sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebook's stock," Facebook said in 2018.
4. Capitol Insurrection Row
Sandberg miscued the January 6 riots following President Donald Trump's defeat at the 2020 US presidential election. She had claimed that the Capitol insurrection was "largely organized on platforms that don't have our abilities to stop hate." However, it was soon pointed out that Facebook had itself played the major role in promoting the 'Stop the Steal' movement.
5. Other Controversies
According to Quartz, Meta and Sandberg have been troubled by controversies since around 2016. While the controversies surrounding the alleged Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election was a key turning point in the public credibility of Facebook, Sandberg was personally at the center of the damning Cambridge Analytica scandal. More generally, Sandberg was routinely criticized for the spread of misinformation aided by Facebook.
Difficult Time for Meta
Sandberg is leaving Meta at a difficult time in its history. Regular advertisement growth is slowing down, competition is tightening and share prices have been falling ever since the company rebranded as Meta.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said her departure is a loss for the company. "I'm going to miss running this company with Sheryl," he 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's Facebook post added.
Zuckerberg, who has said many times the social media startup he founded in 2004 was given direction by Sandberg, said the COO role she held would not stay the same. The incoming COO, Javier Olivan, will hold more of a traditional role, while Sandberg was always seen as a close second-in-command to Zuckerberg.