Sheryl Sandberg said she will quit as Mark Zuckerberg’s longtime deputy in a stunning announcement by Meta’s chief operating officer Wednesday.
Sandberg, one of the most powerful women in Big Tech — with an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion, according to Forbes — said in a Facebook post she will step down in the fall but remain a member of the company’s board of directors.
“When I took this job in 2008, I hoped I would be in this role for five years,” Sandberg said. “Fourteen years later, it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life.”
Sandberg, 52, will be replaced by Javier Olivan, the company’s chief growth officer.
When Sandberg joined Facebook, the relatively tiny Silicon Valley company was years away from going public. She has been seen by many observers as the “adult in the room” who helped shepherd the company to its initial public offering in 2012.
“Mark is a true visionary and a caring leader,” Sandberg said Wednesday. “He was just 23 and I was already 38 when we met, but together we have been through the massive ups and downs of running this company.”
In a separate Facebook post Wednesday, Zuckerberg praised Sandberg as “an amazing person, leader, partner, and friend.”
Sandberg said she is planning to marry her boyfriend, Tom Bernthal, this summer and will focus on philanthropy after she leaves. Her first husband, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, died at 47 after suffering a heart attack while the couple were vacationing in Mexico in 2015. The couple had two children. Bernthal, a 50-year-old TV producer, has three kids.
“This job has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime, but it does not leave a lot of time to do other things,” Sandberg said in an interview with The Puck after revealing her decision. “It’s not the most manageable job anyone has had.”
Sandberg informed Zuckerberg she was leaving in a phone call over the weekend, The New York Times reported.
The timeline for Sandberg’s resignation was unusually short, one tech analyst told The Post, adding that most high-level executive transitions of power are announced at least six months in advance.
“She just ripped the Band-Aid off,” said Dan Ives, managing director of Wedbush Securities.
Ives told The Post that Sandberg “couldn’t have left at a worse time” as Meta — the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp and other apps — pours billions of dollars into an audacious attempt to focus on virtual reality “metaverse” products.
Many investors have been wary of the metaverse push, with shares of the company down 44.3% so far this year. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based social media giant implemented a hiring freeze for some departments in May.
“She’s leaving right as Facebook transitions to the metaverse — even though revenues aren’t coming for another three to five years,” Ives said.
Meta shares fell more than 3% immediately after Sandberg announced her departure before recovering slightly to close down 2.6%.
Ives said that many on Wall Street saw Sandberg as a key check on Zuckerberg’s impulses in times of crisis.
“Zuckerberg is not exactly viewed as the Sully Sullenberger in the airplane,” he said.
Sandberg told The Puck she is confident in the team she leaves behind.
“I really believe in the management team we have,” she said. “I’m very proud of the team that Mark and I have built.”
Last July, the Times reported that Sandberg had become “increasingly isolated” from Zuckerberg during the Trump presidency. The report alleged that Zuckerberg was unable to rely on Sandberg, a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter and “reliable and prominent Democratic bundler,” as the company navigated waves of political controversies.
Facebook denied the reporting at the time, claiming there were no “fault lines” between the pair.
Sandberg is the author of “Lean In,” a motivational book about women in the workplace. After graduating from Harvard she worked at Google and for the Clinton administration Treasury Department prior to joining Facebook.
She also penned the book “Option B” detailing how she coped with grief after her husband’s tragic death.
Her shocking exit comes six weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that she had twice pressured the Daily Mail to kill potentially damaging stories about her then-boyfriend Bobby Kotick, the CEO of Activision Blizzard.
According to the Journal, Kotick told associates that Sandberg warned the Daily Mail that any article they published regarding the situation could hurt the outlet’s relationship with Facebook – whose platform is a considerable source of traffic and revenue for countless media outlets.
Sandberg and her team were said to be concerned that an unflattering report on Kotick would be harmful to her reputation as an advocate for women – which includes her work with the nonprofit advocacy organization Lean In.
Meta, which reportedly opened a review to determine whether Sandberg violated company policies after the Journal began reporting the story, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on her resignation.
Sandberg’s post on Facebook just minutes after the jury in the Amber Heard-Johnny Depp trial delivered its verdict, with some people on Twitter pointing out the curious timing.
“Sheryl Sandberg, queen of the news dump,” one Twitter user quipped.
“Sandberg tryna slip through during a news deluge,” another said.