Meta is losing one of its most famous executives.
After 14 years, Sheryl Sandberg will vacate her role as chief operating officer in the fall, she disclosed Wednesday in a Facebook post.
The reason for her departure wasn’t clear. Sandberg simply wrote that “it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life.” She plans to focus on women’s issues and she looks forward to her wedding this summer. But however her professional plans play out, Meta will still be part of the mix, as she retains her seat on the company’s board.
“I am not entirely sure what the future will bring — I have learned no one ever is,” she said. “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.”
Sandberg authored “Lean In” in 2013, a book that has been both widely lauded and criticized for its views on female empowerment in the workplace. The book inspired the “Lean In” initiative at the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, a California-based nonprofit that “works to build a more equal and resilient world,” according to the organization.
At Meta, Sandberg was an early and fundamentally influential leader. Zuckerberg was just 23 years old when Sandberg, then 38, joined the company in 2008, and the pair “grew up together,” she said.
As founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg’s “number-two,” she helped turn the company from a scrappy start-up into a social media empire spanning Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and a host of other businesses, which channeled $120 billion in revenue last year. She has often faced officials, regulators and the media on behalf of Meta, becoming a public face for the company.
As such, she won’t be easy to replace. And so, the CEO apparently won’t even try.
With effusive praise for his friend, Zuckerberg explained on Facebook that he doesn’t “plan to replace Sheryl’s role in our existing structure…. 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.”
Not that there won’t be a chief operating officer. Zuckerberg sees an opportunity to restructure, and envisions a more traditional chief operating officer role focused internally and operationally. Javier Olivan, current chief growth officer and vice president of cross-Meta products and infrastructure, will step into the position, with chief business officer Marne Levine reporting directly to him.
The shift, the CEO said, would also bring Meta’s ads and business platform product group closer to its business group.
“I’m sad that the day is coming when I won’t get to work as closely with Sheryl,” he added. “But more than anything, I’m grateful for everything she has done to build Meta.”