We knew it was happening, but Meta has confirmed that its long-standing chief operating officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg has departed from her role as of yesterday (August 1).
News emerged on June 1 that Sandberg would be stepping down after more than 14 years in position and would be replaced by chief growth officer Javier Olivan, though no specific date was given. But in a SEC filing yesterday, Meta revealed the transition is now complete. Moving forward, Sandberg will remain a Meta employee through September 30, 2022, after which she will continue purely as a board member.
The switch comes at a turgid time for Meta, having just reported its first ever quarterly revenue decline, while the FTC also confirmed that it was suing Meta to block its acquisition of VR fitness studio Within. On top of that, Meta just can’t seem to shake off the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, an episode that involved a U.K. political consulting firm siphoning Facebook data as a means to predict and influence voters’ behavior through targeted ads. After nearly four years of legal wrangles, a class-action lawsuit moved a step closer last month when it was confirmed that cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sandberg would both be deposed, in an upcoming hearing that could see both executives testify for up to 11 hours in total. Court documents also revealed that new COO Olivan will testify for up to 3 hours.
Sandberg’s departure represents part of a broader restructuring at Meta, with chief financial officer (CFO) David Wehner scheduled to step into the role of chief strategy officer (CSO) on November 1, a move that some may interpret as intended to give investors’ confidence that it’s making moves to steady ye olde Meta ship. Elsewhere, current VP of finance, Susan Li, will step into the CFO role.
Sandberg’s departure represents a milestone moment in the Meta / Facebook story, given how instrumental she was in the company’s evolution into the major moneymaking machine it is today. In a post back in June, Zuckerberg noted that Olivan wouldn’t be a direct replacement for Sandberg in terms of the role he will play, even if the job title will remain the same — Olivan will head up Meta’s ads and business products, and oversee the teams focused on “infrastructure, integrity, analytics, marketing, corporate development and growth,” he wrote.
“Looking forward, I don’t plan to replace Sheryl’s role in our existing structure,” Zuckerberg noted. “I’m not sure that would be possible since she’s a superstar who defined the COO role in her own unique way. But even if it were possible, 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.”