Who is Mark Zuckerberg’s new number 2? It’s a trick question.

For more than a decade, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg began and ended each week by meeting.

The symbolism of the ritual was clear. He intended to point out that Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, and Sandberg, the chief operating officer, were in sync with each other at the top of the company.

But when Sandberg, 52, said Wednesday that he would leave Meta this fall, it crystallized an unspoken change at the tech giant: Zuckerberg no longer has a clear No. 2.

While Zuckerberg has named Javier Olivan, a longtime executive, to take over from Sandberg when she leaves, the role of chief operating officer has diminished in importance at Meta, which was formerly known as Facebook. Instead, Zuckerberg, 38, has four executives who have equally large responsibilities and who answer to and execute major decisions for him.

Zuckerberg made the structural change because he wanted to consolidate his control over all branches of the company, three people close to him said. While Zuckerberg has always been the undisputed boss, holding the majority of the company’s voting shares, he shared power with Sandberg when he was a younger businessman and needed help expanding the company. But with more than 18 years of experience under his belt, he wants to wield his full power and be more clearly identified as the Meta’s sole leader, the people said.

The top four lieutenants are Andrew Bosworth, the chief technology officer; Nick Clegg, president of global affairs; Chris Cox, product manager; and Olivan, who was the head of growth, Zuckerberg said in a Facebook message about Sandberg’s departure on Wednesday.

Each of the four men has important responsibilities. Mr. Clegg is the public face and ambassador for Meta, while Mr. Bosworth is pushing the company into the immersive world of the so-called metaverse. Mr. Cox oversees the Meta family of apps (Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Facebook) and Mr. Olivan will be responsible for analytics, infrastructure, and growth.

But none of them have as much power as Sandberg used to, when she effectively ran all business operations while Zuckerberg concentrated on developing Facebook’s products.

Zuckerberg alluded to the power shift on Wednesday in his Facebook post. He said he was not “planning to replace Sheryl’s role in our existing structure,” adding that Meta “has gotten to the point where it makes sense for our product and business groups to be more integrated, rather than having the entire business and operations “. features organized separately from our products.”

RA Farrokhnia, a professor at the Columbia Schools of Business and Engineering, said the change in management structure made sense as Meta invested in the metaverse and moved away from the social media model that Ms Sandberg built a business for. advertising and defended for years.

“Moving in this direction requires a more decentralized and more traditional governance structure,” Farrokhnia said. “You have multiple people coming together where the sum of the parts becomes much greater.”

A Meta spokesperson declined to comment and declined to provide interviews with executives.

For years, Zuckerberg and Sandberg had well-defined responsibilities, often referred to by employees as the “Sandberg side” and the “Mark side.” Ms. Sandberg led the business, policy, and legal teams with a lot of autonomy, while Mr. Zuckerberg was responsible for the engineering and product teams.

Credit…Goal

That began to change in 2020 after Facebook grappled with scandals involving privacy, misinformation and other toxic content on the platform. Zuckerberg told his teams that he was done apologizing and that he wanted to devote more time and attention to the innovative products the company was designing.

Since then, Zuckerberg has assumed greater control over public messaging and political decisions, previously handled by Sandberg. He also hired employees with public policy experience and promoted long-time executives who were loyal to his vision.

The three executives he promoted were Mr. Bosworth and Mr. Cox, who have been with the company for 16 years, and Mr. Olivan, who joined almost 15 years ago. They were among Zuckerberg’s earliest recruits and were instrumental in building the early versions of Facebook.

Credit…Goal

Mr. Olivan, 44, known internally as Javi, joined Facebook as head of international growth and has risen steadily through the ranks. He’s not a household name, but he oversaw Facebook’s rapid expansion and was heavily involved in maintaining the company’s technical infrastructure.

Bosworth, 40, is seen as an enthusiastic and sometimes brazen cheerleader for Zuckerberg’s vision. In January, he was promoted to be the next chief technology officer. He oversees the virtual and augmented reality labs, which make products like the Quest virtual reality headsets, which are at the heart of Zuckerberg’s drive for the metaverse. He and Zuckerberg are also close friends who vacation together.

Mr. Cox, 39, who became chief product officer in 2005, has often been described by employees as the heart of the company. He left Facebook in March 2019, but returned in June 2020, sparking speculation that Zuckerberg may have pinned her as his successor.

During Cox’s absence, some of his teams were reassigned to report directly to Zuckerberg or other executives, said two top Meta employees who have worked with Cox since his return. They said he hadn’t assumed the kind of expansive role he once did with thousands of engineers reporting to him.

Credit…Goal

Mr Clegg, 55, joined the company in 2018 after a career in British politics, including a spell as deputy prime minister. Ms. Sandberg hired him to take charge of handling Facebook’s thorny political affairs globally, a task that was once hers. Over time, he has become a kind of de facto head of state for the company, dealing with governments around the world and advocating for Meta at the regulatory level. In February, he was promoted to president of global affairs, reporting to Mr. Zuckerberg.

In Meta, pundits have long speculated on who would be Zuckerberg’s possible successor, should he leave. Sandberg’s impending departure has now shortened that list and left no clear answers.

“Over the years, few people other than Sheryl have emerged as possible successors to Mark,” said Katie Harbath, director of public policy for Meta, who left the company last year. “It makes sense that Mark would want options for potential successors.”

He added: “It can be risky to focus on just one person.”

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