Leaked transcript: What Mark Zuckerberg told Meta employees about Sheryl Sandberg’s exit

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Meta held a virtual meeting for its more than 70,000 employees on Thursday, and there was a special topic of discussion: the recently announced departure of Sheryl Sandberg, its longtime No. 2 executive.

“People asked me all day yesterday, ‘Why now? Why now?’ Why now is because it’s time to write the next chapter of my life,” Sandberg said at the meeting, which Recode obtained an exclusive recording of and has transcribed below. “But really, [it’s] because I have so much faith in the leadership team Mark and I have put in place,” she continued.

The meeting focused on Sandberg’s contributions to Meta’s business — namely, making it profitable — as well as Sandberg’s early memories of Zuckerberg, and Zuckerberg’s plans to more closely integrate Meta’s product and business teams when Sandberg exits.

Sandberg’s departure comes at a time of unparalleled uncertainty about the future of Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook. The tech giant has reoriented its vision away from social media to focus on building the “metaverse”; meanwhile, its stock price has faced historic dips, and it continues to face the ongoing threat of regulatory scrutiny.

Which is why the departure of Sandberg — who was long considered “the adult in the room” who helped Zuckerberg mature his business — sent shock waves through the company and the entire tech industry.

Unlike in regular weekly executive Q&A meetings normally held every week at Meta, the “fireside chat” format of Thursday’s meeting meant that the company did not take direct questions from employees. The roughly 30-minute discussion was mostly Sandberg and Zuckerberg expressing their gratitude for each other. Zuckerberg thanked Sandberg for teaching his 23-year-old self “how to run a company,” and Sandberg complimented Zuckerberg for his vision and the teams they built together.

They made no mention of the largest issues facing the company, such as Meta’s ongoing challenges around content moderation (which Sandberg oversaw), Facebook’s declining relevance with younger users amid the rise of its competitor TikTok, and skepticism about the future of the metaverse.

The congratulatory tone of the meeting also glossed over any questions about Zuckerberg and Sandberg’s relationship, which according to several reports has grown more distant in recent years. (Meta has denied any rift.)

Although the meeting didn’t directly dive into the many pressing issues facing the company, this leaked recording of a Meta internal meeting offers insights into how the company is positioning a pivotal moment as one of its most formative and prominent leaders is leaving.

The following is a rush transcript of Meta’s internal meeting on June 2, 2022. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Moderator

Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for joining us today to be with us after the news, you saw in Employee FYI, from both Mark and Sheryl’s posts. And we’re not going to take any questions — it’s kind of different than a Q&A this time. But we really wanted to get to hear from Mark and Sheryl both and speak directly to employees about the news. So without further ado, Mark, we’ll kick it over to you.

Mark Zuckerberg

All right, thanks. Well, I wanted to get the company together to talk about yesterday’s news. As I wrote my post, this is the end of an era. It really is. After 14 years, Sheryl has made the decision to step down from her role as COO of Meta. And I think it’s hard for us to have, sitting where we are today, where we have this really successful company, to put ourselves in what things were like from when Sheryl joined in order to understand just how big of an impact she’s had on this place.

When Sheryl joined me, it was back in 2008. I was 23 years old at the time, and I barely knew anything about running a company. We had this great product at the time, it was a website, not a mobile app, it was just Facebook. But it was a great product that people were super excited about. We didn’t really have anything in the way of a profitable business. We had a smattering of some ideas, we didn’t really have the direction of where we’re gonna go with ads. And we were really struggling to just transition from this loose startup culture to a real organization.

And, you know, a lot of what Sheryl did is she architected our ads business, she hired a lot of great people, she built our management culture, and taught me and so many other people here how to run a company. And I think, you know, where we are now where we have this successful business and we have an organization that works efficiently. And we have hundreds and in a lot of ways thousands of great leaders around the company who can push them forward. It’s a very different world from where we were, when Sheryl was building all of that up. So you know, I think a lot of her legacy is that she just created opportunities for millions of people around the world and I think she deserves a lot of the credit for what Meta is today.

I think it’s been really unusual for a partnership like this to last so long, Sheryl will say that she thought it would last for five years but it lasted for 14. I was a little more optimistic that it would have lasted a little more than five years. But I mean, typically these things don’t last for that long because businesses evolve and the needs that people have evolve, and people’s ambitions change. But I think that our partnership worked for so long, because Sheryl is just such an amazing person and leader and partner and friend and like so much of what she did, she really focused on making the partnership work and she focuses on nurturing the relationships and helping the people around her grow.

I’m just super grateful for having had this opportunity to build this company and work so closely with Sheryl, and I feel like she’s leaving us in a great place having trained so many other awesome and talented people here. And of course, she’s not going that far because she’s gonna be on our board going forward. So anyway, it’s difficult to overstate how big of an impact Sheryl’s had on this place. But I just want to start off by expressing my gratitude for everything that you’ve done.

Sheryl Sandberg

Thank you. You know, I don’t know if it’s that I expected it to last for five years. But the story is that I met Mark at this party. And we kind of stood by the wall by the door and talked the entire time. And then we went out to dinner once and then kind of, you know, he was very recognizable. I was not, but I did have a large team at Google. And someone on that team saw us there so we didn’t go out again. We had dinner at my house, we couldn’t have dinner at Mark’s house because Mark — remember you had a studio apartment with a mattress on the floor. And you correctly judged that that was not a good place to have a dinner with me.

And so we had dinner at my house many, many, many times for many months. And then at the end, we went out to dinner. Me and Mark and Dave, my husband, and Priscilla was then his young girlfriend. And on the way there Dave and I talked, he looked at me and said, “You’ve got to be able to see yourself in this job for five years, otherwise this makes no sense.” And so that always kind of rang in my head —and that was, as Mark said, 14 years ago — can you work for and with this person for the next five years of your life? And the answer to that was just an overwhelming yes.

And you know, I said this in my post, but this job has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime, and that really starts with Mark.

On the way in, I asked him for three things: that we would sit together, that we would meet every week, and that we would give each other feedback. And on the third … I asked for him to give me feedback every week. And he said right away, “nope, I will not give you feedback every week unless you give it to me.” And we set up, I think it was Fridays in our early days for our meeting and feedback days. And I remember in one of my very first weeks the feedback came right away and it was on a Tuesday, and I’m like “Whoa, It’s not a feedback day, feedback day is Friday.”

But the fact that we talked about that in order to have a real partnership — and this is something I have tried to impart to the company — because we are a company filled with people, we are a company filled with relationships, that is all of the relationships between all of you that either make this place work or make this place not work that build the products or don’t that sell the ads or don’t ship or not, that keep things running or not. And it is being honest and direct that keeps things from building up and keeps things on track. And Mark said right away, “Well, it doesn’t have to be Friday.” And Mark was always really honest with me.

When I was thinking about that culture of feedback, what is the feedback Mark has had for me the most? And it’s really that we need to be ambitious, all the way through. I remember when that crash of 2008 happened, you know, and I was doom and gloom and thought we’re never going to sell another ad and our 2009 revenue projections Mark was like “Not good enough.” And I said, “Well, you know, the markets crashing and the whole world’s imploding.” And everyone remembers this — okay, not all of you because some of you are very young — but a lot of us remember this time in the world and in the markets. And it felt like, there would never get the end of the recession would never come up. Mark says, “well, we’ve still got to sell ads and build the business through this.” And we did.

And at every stage of the game Mark has always pushed us to be bolder. One of the other moments on that I’ve always thought about is Mark has always said there’s two ways for a company to fail. One way is it sets ambitious plans and doesn’t meet them. But the second way is it sets plans that aren’t ambitious and needs them. And he always said, I never want the second to happen to us that we can’t have plans that won’t really deliver. If you look about where the company is right now, the metaverse plan is ambitious, and that is Mark at his very best. I’m really grateful to this team.

People asked me all day yesterday, “Why now? Why now?” Why now is because it’s time to write the next chapter of my life. But really, because I have so much faith in the leadership team Mark and I have put in place, when you look at my direct reports, from Marne to Justin to Molly and Maxine to Lori and Jen and Nick, who have already started reporting to Mark months ago.

[Editor’s note: Marne Levine is Meta’s chief business officer, Justin Osofsky is Instagram COO & VP of global operations, Molly Cutler is Meta’s VP of strategic response program, and Maxine Williams is Meta’s global chief diversity officer. Lori Goler is Meta’s head of people, Jennifer Newstead is Meta’s chief legal officer, and Nick Clegg is Meta’s president of global affairs.]

There’s such a deep bench, and it’s not just them, it’s the people under them, and the people under them and the people under them. And Javi, [Editor’s note: Javier Olivan is Meta VP of central products and will take over Sandberg’s former role as COO] as he steps into what is a very different, but I think it’s really important, role for this company. I have so much faith in all of them. And I just have so much gratitude. Thank you all for so many nice posts and messages and calls and texts yesterday sharing your stories. I’m very grateful that I’ve touched lives the way some of you are saying and I want you to know you’ve touched mine even more. So now I think we’re going to talk a little bit about transition — oh no, I’m sorry, Melinda, you moderate.

Moderator

No, I’m just trying to hold back tears. And also, the idea that this is probably the most heart emojis that I’ve seen on a live broadcast that we’ve done. Lots of people chiming in saying, “Wow, Mark, and Sheryl, what a partnership for all of these years, it sounds like such a great friendship as well.” And then also just how good it’s been to have two leaders like you, and especially in this time and day, how wonderful it is to see you together. So you mentioned something, though, I want to go back to about our structure and leadership changing a bit based on the news. So Mark, would you walk through the changes here of structurally what’s happening?

Mark Zuckerberg

Sure. So I think the first thing to say is we’re not going to replace Sheryl’s role in the way that it’s happening now, I think for a few reasons. One is that it would be impossible. And Sheryl is a unique and super-talented leader who joined at a specific context in time in our company where there were all these parts of the company that needed to be just built from scratch that were not the product.

But going forward, I think it makes a lot more sense to integrate the business functions and product functions together, rather than having these be sort of two separate sides of the company. Javi Olivan is going to be the next COO of the company. And as part of that, all of the business functions, the product groups around ads, and commerce, business messaging payments, are going to be there as well as Marne Levine, our chief business officer for the company and all of the Meta business group. And Javi also, he just has this history of being incredibly rigorous and focused on efficiency with everything that he runs, and I keep on just adding more and more things to his portfolio over time. But now that he’s in addition to running those parts of the business, he’s also going to run, he runs our infrastructure teams and integrity, marketing, analytics, corporate development, and growth as well.

But I think it’s important to notice that — start to recognize that — this role is going to be a different COO role than what Sheryl has done. It’s going to be a more traditional COO role, where Javi is going to be focused primarily internally and operationally. And for the most part, I think people externally are not really going to hear from him. The kind of role of the top public business person at the company is going to be Marne as chief business officer. And she has already played a bunch of this role and has helped to knit the Meta business group together with the sales group and the partnerships organizations.

And a lot of what we’re going to do over the rest of this year as Sheryl transitions in her day-to-day role is just make sure that we transition all the relationships over to Marne, and Marne’s really going to be the kind of top person who deals with all the CEOs of the companies that we partner with and running all the partnerships and the work that we do there, reporting into Javi’s org.

One of the big legacies that Sheryl has is just having all these awesome leaders who are going to take on these bigger roles now, some of them have already stepped into bigger roles. So that includes the folks like Jennifer Newstead, who stepped into a role as our chief legal officer last year, as well as Nick Clegg, who stepped into a role as our president of global affairs earlier this year. And those folks were already dual reporting to me and Sheryl, so just very naturally, they’ll just continue reporting to me now.

On the people side, we have Lori Goler I’ve worked extremely close with for a long time, so she’ll now report directly to me. Maxine Williams, our chief diversity officer, is going to continue working in the people team, but she’s been in my staff meeting for a number of years now and is going to continue doing that too, and just has a really valuable voice in that group that I’ve appreciated and will continue to lean on.

And then at the same time, Molly Cutler, who has run our strategic response group, is also going to join Javi’s organization reporting to Naomi with the same basic focus on improving our decision-making and execution efficiency. And that’s going to be the big focus there. So we’ll share more information about the orgs in the coming weeks as we work everything out, that’s sort of the top level of things. But I think over time, we’re going to want to just make sure that these different groups are more integrated well together, I think having the products closer to the different business and operational groups is going to make everything run more efficiently, we’ll be able to get better feedback from our customers and clients and people in our community more directly into our product group segment. That’s going to be great. And that I think is a good kind of next step for the organization to take.

But I mean, look, it’s, again, it’s just hard to overstate how big of an impact Sheryl has had. I look forward to all these folks who she’s trained up continuing to work with them, and I have a huge amount of confidence that they’re gonna be able to keep pushing this all forward. But it’s obviously big shoes to fill.

Moderator

Oh, I love that. Mark. Thanks for that. I want to take a few minutes just to talk to you both about some of the stories that I’ve had the privilege of hearing about your relationship and partnership that I think would be worth talking about for employees as well. You know, Mark, you said something interesting the other day, this company was so different before Sheryl started. And like you said, she has made a tremendous impact, but I’d love to hear, you know, how this has gone for the myriad of years that you’ve been together and what that looks like from then to now.

Mark Zuckerberg

Sure. You want to start Sheryl, or should I?

Sheryl Sandberg

I guess if it’s before I was here, you need to start?

Mark Zuckerberg

Yeah, well, I mean, I think the biggest thing that it’s difficult for people today to really appreciate is just how different the context was around the company. I mean, today, we’re this very successful company, it’s sort of hard to — you know, when something works, it’s hard to look back and assume a world where it might not have worked. But you know, at the time when Sheryl joined, we had a great product, but it was a time before there were a lot of, you know, the successful web 2.0 companies as they were called. It just wasn’t clear to a lot of people that advertising was going to be able to fuel a sustainable business, much less a massively successful one.

We had to make this big transition from being this kind of loose startup culture to calling it an organization. But I mean, that might even be overstating what it was at the time. But transitioning that to actually being a real company that can execute on a bunch of different things at once and have some rigor.

And these were all things that no one at the company had ever had any experience doing, right? So we built this product, I had some experience coding and building things that people liked, and I felt pretty confident that I could keep doing that. And we could build teams to keep doing that. But no one had ever built a big profitable ads business or scaled a company or an organization to hundreds or thousands of people before, and we didn’t know how to do that.

And that’s when Sheryl came in, and not only put the structures in place, the ads side really just focused us over a period of years that that was going to be the main way that we were going to make money until it really started working. But along the way, she just trained so many of the key people here and brought in a lot of people and trained them on how to be the leaders that this company needed.

So, you know, at the time when she joined, a lot of people made this joke, although it really wasn’t a joke at the time, that she was sort of the adult supervision for the company.

But I think now she’s sort of raised a generation of adult managers at the company, who I think now can run very complex and big things on their own. And I think, Sheryl, you can speak to this, but imagine that just seeing all these folks grow up and sort of take after you and how you’ve been how you built the organization around the company, is probably something that you take a huge amount of pride in.

But you know, ultimately, the test of any leader is can they step back from a day-to-day role and have things continue doing well, because I mean, face it — whether you’re leaving the company, or just if you want to take on more responsibility and new projects, it’s sort of all of our job to be able to set up the people around us to be able to do what we’re currently doing today, so that we can do more or different things in the future. And I think Sheryl has just done that really well. But from where we sit today, I think it’s really hard unless you were kind of there at the time. And even for me, it’s hard to kind of put myself back in the shoes of how chaotic things were 14 years ago, but you really have to appreciate that in order to understand just how big of an impact Sheryl has had on this place.

Sheryl Sandberg

Thank you. So nice. You know, when I think back to taking this job, Mark is so kind to share so much credit. But the product that this company had built — that Mark had built, that a very small group of people had built — was so powerful. And I had used it and joined, I guess, Facebook, in 2007 as a user, and I was just amazed that people would share and put their real identity online. And that wasn’t obvious to me coming from Google when search and anonymity and you’re looking for specific information at a specific part of time that goes to you only. But there was always this great passion in what we were doing.

And Mark always thought, he said before, I thought someone would build this, he just didn’t know what would be them. But it was them. And I got the opportunity to join. You talked about the pride I might take in some of the people who have grown up here — I’ve grown up here too. And immediately I think of Naomi, who was here when I joined who is now taking on a piece of what I was doing in one of the more important parts is Molly Cutler and her amazing group, and has been such a great product, and business and strategic leader for us but I think was right out of school then. Mark and I talked about growing up together.

And it’s really true that none of us could have foreseen what this could be. None of us could have thought – I remember, we were in a bunch of downtown buildings —Mark, you’ll remember —in Palo Alto when we took what was now classic campus. And I remember taking that tour thinking “Oh, my god, this place is huge. Do we need this much space?” And now I’m sitting so far away right now in my room from that campus that I think is a good 15 minute walk to where I thought those buildings — maybe 25 minutes — to the last of these buildings where I thought that space was just so ginormous. We would never fill it. But the thing is — were you [Zuckerberg] gonna say something?

Mark Zuckerberg

No.

Sheryl Sandberg

I remember when I told you when we originally went to that campus, Mark was worried that there wasn’t enough stuff on the campus and I told you we would try to get a McDonald’s, remember that?

Mark Zuckerberg

Um, yeah, roughly.

Sheryl Sandberg

Roughly. We got on this bus. And we had been looking for a campus for a long time and I said to Mark, I said two things are true: One, you’re not going to like this, and two, we’re signing the lease in like three days [laughing] because we are out of options. And the reason he didn’t like it is that before our teams — our amazing facility teams — took over it was a little drab, and a little not lively. That totally changed, but we never did quite get McDonald’s there.

Mark Zuckerberg

That’s okay.

Sheryl Sandberg

But we produced better food on our own because of our culinary team. But one thing that’s been true all along is the deep ambitions this company has. And I’ve always thought that part of the partnership Mark and I have is that Mark always pushed me to be bigger, think larger, get more done. And I always explain to Mark that there’s like 80 steps between here and getting that done. But the goals of setting things high.

And one of the things I’m most excited about and why I’m so honored to stay on the board is I would have never envisioned the products we’re building in the metaverse and Mark’s vision for this, when I get to talk to him about it, which often sounds like talking to Mark at the beginning. When I was here 14 years ago and thinking about joining, that he is seeing something that I don’t know if anyone else sees and he has that once-in-a-generation visionary that I think has done before and will do it again, with the help of everyone, of everyone in this company.

Mark Zuckerberg

I’ve had this in my post, but I do want to say it out loud, which is every single day on this job, someone does something that blows me away. I just looked at this. I said, “Oh my God, this is so giving, so generous, so smart, so strategic, so creative.” I see that every day. And that I think is why we will continue to be so successful

Moderator

Oh, I mean, every time I get on, I’m like trying to wipe away tears. Okay, I know I’m being dramatic, but it’s true. There’s a comment here that I have to read for you both. It takes tremendous empathy and courage to recognize your long-term and longtime colleagues’ contributions, while making sure the company has what it needs to evolve. So thanks, Mark, for modeling care and courageous communication. And then Sheryl, for your work, your grace, your influence, your business acumen, that will leave a lasting legacy. I mean, that pretty much sums it up, for sure, you both have allowed me to have a seat at the table and mentors of mine, and I’ll be forever grateful. And I know that a lot of employees feel the same. We have about two minutes left. So any closing thoughts at all to share?

Mark Zuckerberg

Maybe I’ll just close, similarly to how I opened, but I just think that it really is hard to overstate the impact that Sheryl has had on this place. And I think so much of what we’ve built now versus back to things that she has done. I’m personally going to be sad to not get a chance to work with you as closely going forward, even though I’m glad that you’re gonna be on the board. But more than anything, I’m just grateful for everything that you’ve done. And, and for leaving the company in such a good position with — even though there’s a lot that we still need to do and a lot of challenges — organizationally and from a people perspective, we have great people and a lot of that, I think is because of the teams that you’ve built. So I’m just incredibly grateful. And I think it’s really hard to express that enough for what you’ve done for this place.

Sheryl Sandberg

I’ll close saying the same thing. I’m incredibly grateful to you, Mark. Your kindness and your generosity, the passion with which you run this company, every day is touched many lives. You’ve touched the lives of not just millions, but billions of people around the world. And I’m incredibly grateful to the people who have joined us, to the people who work here, to the people who will continue to build the products that I’m gonna continue to use and enjoy, hopefully for the rest of my life. Deep, deep, deep, deep love and gratitude. Thank you all. Thank you, Mark.

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