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Facebook parent Meta COO Sandberg steps down

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 10, 2015 Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg speaks during a Safer Internet Day event at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California. - Meta's second most powerful executive Sheryl Sandberg said June 1, 2022 that she will leave the tech giant, 14 years after being hired by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo by JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 10, 2015 Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg speaks during a Safer Internet Day event at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California. (Photo by JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

MANILA, Philippines — After a 14-year tenure as chief operating officer (COO) of Facebook’s parent company Meta, Sheryl Sandberg on Thursday confirmed her impending departure from the company.

The social media giant’s second most powerful executive and one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful women said Thursday that she will step down from Meta this fall, as it faces an uncertain future and fierce competition.

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“Today, I am sharing the news that after 14 years, I will be leaving Meta,” Sandberg wrote over Facebook. “I am beyond grateful to the thousands of brilliant, dedicated people at Meta with whom I have had the privilege of working over the last 14 years.”

Sandberg, whose leadership helped steer scandal-prone Facebook to advertising dominance, also said she will continue to serve as a member of its board of directors while redirecting more time for her foundation and philanthropic work.

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The 52-year-old Meta executive also underscored the company’s responsibility to develop their products in a way that safeguards its users’ privacy.

“The debate around social media has changed beyond recognition since those early days. To say it hasn’t always been easy is an understatement. But it should be hard,” Sandberg said. “I know that the extraordinary team at Meta will continue to work tirelessly to rise to these challenges and keep making our company and our community better.”

More ‘traditional’ COO

In a post on his Facebook page, Meta founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg recalled his experience working alongside Sandberg. He also bared no intention of replacing her, noting how she “defined the COO role 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, rather than having all the business and operations functions organized separately from our products,” 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 further said. “I’m going to miss running this company with Sheryl.”

With this in mind, Zuckerberg announced that Meta’s former chief growth officer Javier Olivan will take on a COO post that’s “different from what Sheryl has done.”

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

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From startup to multi-billion empire

A Harvard-educated executive, Sandberg joined Facebook in 2008 when it was still just a startup, playing a formative role in its development into a multi-billion dollar advertising empire.

“Fourteen years later, it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life,” Sandberg said. “I am not entirely sure what the future will bring — I have learned no one ever is.”

Her job made her not just a recognizable face in tech but also a household name, particularly thanks to her 2013 book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.”

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 05, 2018 Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. - Meta's second most powerful executive Sheryl Sandberg said June 1, 2022 that she will leave the tech giant, 14 years after being hired by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP)

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 05, 2018 Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP)

The bestseller encouraged women to “lean in” to their careers in order to reach their full potential and overcome workforce obstacles.

It has drawn applause from admirers for articulating a new modern feminist vision and sharp criticism from detractors who say her lofty position has made her out-of-touch with the grueling personal cost of combining career and family.

The social network has recently rebranded itself in a pivot toward a belief the internet is headed towards becoming an immersive virtual world, referred to as the metaverse.

Legacy of enabling trolls, harassment

The Silicon Valley colossus has seen its image tainted by accusations it has put profit over user privacy and even the good of society.

“Sandberg leaves Meta, and the social media environment that Facebook helped create, in a far worse place than she found it,” said Media Matters for America president Angelo Carusone.

“Hers is a legacy of enabling trolling, harassment, and abuse.”

Meanwhile, the likes of TikTok, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and even Apple now vie with Meta for people’s online attention as the Facebook platform is increasingly seen as a place for older people.

Meta shares fell more than two percent on word that Sandberg was leaving, another blow to a stock value that has plummeted on worries that the company’s regular growth was coming to an end.

Guiding hand

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.

George Soros controversy

Sandberg, long seen as the “adult” at the youthfully managed firm, has found herself the center of controversy over her role in pushing back at criticism of the social media giant.

Sandberg drew fire in particular over an embarrassing effort to probe George Soros, the billionaire investor, after he assailed the online network as a “menace to society.”

Facebook has acknowledged that Sandberg asked her staff to conduct research on the Hungarian-born billionaire following his remarks, out of concern that he held a “short” position that would profit from a decline in shares.

Among the tech whiz kids, Sandberg offered a steadier hand as a result of her background working for former US Treasury secretary Larry Summers and the philanthropic arm of Google.

Sandberg in 2015 was devastated by the sudden death of her husband, US tech executive David Goldberg, at an upscale resort in Mexico.

Two years ago she announced her engagement to marketing executive Tom Bernthal.

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TOPICS: Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, Meta, Sheryl Sandberg
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