Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg steps down after 14-year tenure

Sheryl Sandberg at the World Economic Forum in 2013
(Image credit: World Economic Forum / Photo by Michael Wuertenberg)

What you need to know

  • Meta Chief Financial Officer (and former Facebook COO) Sheryl Sandberg is stepping down from her role.
  • She joined the company in 2008 and is attributed to much of the company's business growth.
  • Mark Zuckerberg says new COO Javier Olivan will have a smaller role compared to Sandberg's.
  • Sandberg recently attracted controversy for allegedly killing a story about Activision CEO and ex-boyfriend Bobby Kotick. 

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Meta and the business architect behind much of Facebook's success, is stepping down from her role. Sandberg, 52, will remain on the board of directors but cede her role to current Chief Growth Officer Javier Olivan.

In Sandberg's Facebook post (opens in new tab) announcing the news, she explained that "Mark and I will transition my direct reports and I will leave the company this fall," and that she will be "focusing more on my foundation and philanthropic work" in the near future. 

Sandberg joined Facebook in 2008, when the company was "struggling to transition from a small startup to a real organization" according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In his own Facebook post (opens in new tab), Zuckerberg credits Sandberg for much of its success, as she "architected our ads business, hired great people, forged our management culture, and taught me how to run a company."

Zuckerberg explained that Olivan will technically take Sandberg's role but will have a "more traditional COO role," and that he doesn't plan to "replace Sheryl's role," which handled more than just day-to-day operations.

As Zuckerberg's number 2, Sandberg didn't attract as much controversy as the CEO for Facebook's various controversies, from Cambridge Analytica to antitrust issues and complaints about the spread of political information. 

But she did receive criticism after a Wall Street Journal report claimed Sandberg twice pressured the Daily Mail to drop a negative story on Activision CEO Bobby Kotick (opens in new tab), whom she was dating at the time. The implication was that Sandberg would hurt the Daily Mail's relationship with Facebook if it decided not to publish.

Meta's first retail store in Burlingame, California

The Meta Store (Image credit: Meta)

Sandberg leaves the company in the midst of financial difficulties, as reflected by Meta's most recent earnings call. Recent privacy policy changes at Apple and Google have hurt Meta's ad revenue for its family of apps — Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. Meta is also pushing Instagram Reels as a TikTok competitor, transitioning to shorter videos that have less ad revenue potential.

At the same time, Meta is currently spending tens of billions on Reality Labs in the hopes of jumpstarting the Metaverse and developing four new VR headsets and several new AR glasses. The combination of reduced ad revenue and increased R&D spending has spooked investors.

After her role in growing Facebook into a social media titan, it's perhaps unsurprising that Sandberg — who says she only intended to work there for five years, and will be getting married this summer — would want to step away in the midst of these new financial challenges.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.