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On Wednesday, Sheryl Sandberg — formerly the chief operating officer of technology and social media juggernaut Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:META) — announced that she will step down from the company’s board of directors. An accomplished tech executive, Sandberg leaves behind a complicated legacy for stakeholders of META stock to digest.
“With a heart filled with gratitude and a mind filled with memories, I let the Meta board know that I will not stand for reelection this May,” Sandberg disclosed in a Facebook post. According to CBS News, Sandberg left Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) in 2008 — when it was known as Google — to join Facebook. That was four years before the company went public.
As the No. 2 executive under Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Sandberg stood in the spotlight on multiple occasions. Undoubtedly, she engineered the company to become a digital advertising empire. Meta owes its string of robust profitability to her. At the same time, Sandberg’s tenure also involved serious controversies, particularly around digital privacy and the dissemination of harmful content.
It’s difficult to focus only on the good without acknowledging the missteps. Still, Sandberg struck a positive parting tone. “Under Mark’s leadership, Javi Olivan, Justin Osofsky, Nicola Mendelsohn, and their teams have proven beyond a doubt that the Meta business is strong and well-positioned for the future, so this feels like the right time to step away,” she wrote.
META Stock Is Sandberg’s Legacy, For Better or for Worse
Perhaps the best way to describe Sandberg’s tenure at Meta is dichotomous. On one hand, her vision to pivot the Facebook business model as an advertising behemoth represents one of the most lucid maneuvers in modern business history. Therefore, stakeholders of META stock have largely been pleased with the underlying performance.
According to an article by The Guardian, Sandberg helped drive adoption of the Facebook platform by circumventing prospective client enterprises’ advertising teams. Instead, she directly approached CEOs, pitching them the unique mechanisms by which Facebook could be used to engage customers. One can’t argue with the results. In 2022, advertising accounted for 97% of Meta’s $117 billion turnover.
But on the other hand, her slow reaction to key vulnerabilities within the Facebook ecosystem raised alarm among advocacy groups. Easily, one of the company’s biggest scandals was the Cambridge Analytica incident. The British consulting firm collected personal data belonging to millions of Facebook users without their consent for the purposes of political advertising.
As well, nefarious actors exploited the social media network to promote hate and other egregious content, thrusting META stock into a wider debate about the role Big Tech should play in mitigating harm and promoting social good.
Still, the bottom line is that Meta likely wouldn’t be where it is now without Sandberg’s influence. That’s the legacy, for better or for worse.
Looking Ahead for Meta Platforms
As investors move into the post-Sandberg era, a key question will center on advertising in the new digital paradigm. Previously, social media offered an untapped resource for advertisers, an attribute that bolstered META stock. Moving forward, artificial intelligence will likely undergird digital advertising protocols. Therefore, Meta may need to incorporate a viable strategic framework once again.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.