Sheryl Sandberg, the long-time number two executive at Facebook parent company Meta, announced on Wednesday she was stepping down as chief operating officer.
“Today, I am sharing the news that after 14 years, I will be leaving Meta,” she announced on Facebook.
“When I took this job in 2008, I hoped I would be in this role for five years,” she said. “Fourteen years later, it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life."
Ms Sandberg, 52, joined Facebook from Google, helped build the company's online advertising operation and expand it into a multi-platform company that attracted more than $120 billion in sales last year.
Ms Sandberg, who previously worked for then US Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers under former president Bill Clinton, defended the company during scandals under her watch, like the 2016 US presidential election and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, as well as the spread of misinformation and failures of oversight.
“The debate around social media has changed beyond recognition since those early days,” she said in her Facebook post.
“To say it hasn’t always been easy is an understatement. But it should be hard. The products we make have a huge impact, so we have the responsibility to build them in a way that protects privacy and keeps people safe. 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. I also know that our platforms will continue to be an engine of growth for the businesses around the world that rely on us.”
Ms Sandberg said she would be leaving the company in the autumn and focus on her foundation and philanthropic work.
“I am not entirely sure what the future will bring — I have learnt no one ever is."
Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post that he would miss working with her at the company. She will continue to serve on the company's board of directors, he said.
Mr Zuckerberg credited Ms Sandberg as a central player in building the company's advertising business and management culture.
“It's unusual for a business partnership like ours to last so long. I think ours did because Sheryl is such an amazing person, leader, partner and friend,” he said.
Mr Zuckerberg said there were no current plans to replace Ms Sandberg's role in the company's “existing structure”.
He said Javier Olivan would become the next chief operating officer at Meta.
“But this role will be different from what Sheryl has done,” Mr Zuckerberg said. “It will be a more traditional [chief operating officer] role where Javi will be focused internally and operationally, building on his strong track record of making our execution more efficient and rigorous.”
Ms Sandberg is leaving as Meta shifts its focus to products that enable the virtual reality-driven metaverse, which require a significant evolution of its business model.
She said she made the decision to leave the company last weekend and told Mr Zuckerberg of her plans then. The two executives have become close friends over the years.
“She has taught me so much and she has been there for many of the important moments in my life, both personally and professionally,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote.
He said Ms Sandberg “supported me and Priscilla as we navigated challenges having children”.
The Facebook founder said that their “partnership has always been deeper than just business”.
Bloomberg contributed to this report