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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Facebook Hires a Google Executive as No. 2

Slashdot It! Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook is not stepping aside for a chief executive as Larry Page and Sergey Brin did at Google or as Jerry Yang and David Filo did at Yahoo. He is following the Bill Gates model and holding the top post as he hires a Google executive, Sheryl Sandberg, as chief operating officer. Ms. Sandberg, currently vice president for global online sales and operations at Google, joined the search giant in 2001 and helped to develop its immensely lucrative online advertising programs, AdWords and AdSense. She will join Facebook this month to work closely with Mr. Zuckerberg, a co-founder of Facebook, the company said Tuesday. “A big theme of this hire is that there are parts of our operations that to use a pretty trite phrase, need to be taken to the next level,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in an interview. Ms. Sandberg will help Facebook expand overseas and develop an advertising network that will help justify its $15 billion valuation, set last year when Microsoft invested $240 million for 1.6 percent of the company. She will also oversee Facebook’s marketing, human resources and privacy departments — essentially guiding how Facebook presents itself and its intentions to the outside world. Ms. Sandberg’s departure is a blow to Google, where she was a well-regarded executive. “Sheryl was a valued member of the Google team, and we wish her well in her new endeavors,” Omid Kordestani, Google’s senior vice president for global sales and business development, said in an e-mail statement. Mr. Kordestani said David Fischer would take over Ms. Sandberg’s job. Until now, Mr. Fischer was vice president for online sales and operation, reporting to Ms. Sandberg. Facebook has more than 66 million users and is growing rapidly, but the company, based in Palo Alto, Calif., has been dogged by criticism over its business practices. For example, its effort to allow advertisers to exploit the social connections between friends on a service called Beacon encountered stiff resistance from users. “Communicating what we are about clearly is an important thing for us to do,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “We can do that better, and Beacon showed that, as did a handful of other things.” Mr. Zuckerberg had a chief deputy once before. Owen Van Natta, a former Amazon executive, held the title of chief operating officer before he was given the narrower role of chief revenue officer last year. Last month, he announced he was leaving Facebook to pursue opportunities as a chief executive elsewhere. Mr. Zuckerberg is 23 and Ms. Sandberg is 38, but the age difference did not stand in the way of building a working relationship. The pair met at a Christmas party last December. Roger McNamee, a prominent venture capitalist and an investor and occasional adviser to Mr. Zuckerberg, helped broker ensuing conversations with a recommendation of Ms. Sandberg. Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg then spent time discussing Facebook’s future at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January and over a series of dinners at Ms. Sandberg’s home in Atherton, Calif. Ms. Sandberg joined Google three years before it went public, when it had only 260 employees. Like many veteran Googlers, she is a multimillionaire. In building the online operations of AdWords and AdSense, the two programs that accounted for the overwhelming majority of Google’s $16.6 billion in 2007, she saw the size of her department swell from four people to thousands of employees. She says that Facebook today reminds her of Google back then. “For me that is part of the excitement,” she said. “I’ve loved being part of the process of helping to build Google. The opportunity to help another young company to grow into a global leader is the opportunity of a lifetime.” Ms. Sandberg is only one of a handful of top executives to have made for the exits at Google, including George Reyes, the chief financial officer, who announced in August that he would retire but has agreed to remain in his post until Google hires a successor. The company has suffered a larger number of defections among vice presidents, senior managers and engineers in recent months as its size has ballooned to more than 16,000 workers. Most employees who joined before the company’s 2004 initial public offering have seen their initial grant of stock options fully vested. Ms. Sandberg’s appointment comes as the competition between Google and Facebook intensifies. The two companies are growing rapidly and find themselves going after many of the same top engineering talent in Silicon Valley. In addition, Google competed furiously for a part of Facebook’s advertising business last year and lost to Microsoft. Google, which has had mixed success with its own social network initiatives, subsequently announced that it was leading an alliance of social networks to promote a new standard for third party developers to create programs that run on their sites. The alliance, which includes the leading social network MySpace, was seen as a way to counter Facebook’s growing popularity with software developers. Google’s own social network, Orkut, is popular in Brazil and other countries, but not in the United States. Still Google’s social networking ambitions go beyond Orkut, and the company has begun allowing users of Google’s mapping, blog reading and other online services to share their activities with friends. When asked if she thought Facebook and Google were competitors, Ms. Sandberg said she thought “they are at their core very different companies.” Before joining Google, Ms. Sandberg was chief of staff to Lawrence H. Summers when he was Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. The experience in government could serve Facebook well if the company again encounters federal or state inquiries over its privacy policies. Ms. Sandberg, who serves as a director of Google’s philanthropy, Google.org, wields influence in Silicon Valley political circles, where she is backer of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Ms. Sandberg is married to David Goldberg, a former vice president at Yahoo, where he ran that company’s music business. He left last year to become an entrepreneur-in-residence at Benchmark Capital, a venture capital firm. Get Daily Updates via Email Protect your computer with Windows Onecare Get paid $7.50 for reviewing my post Ad Space

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