News Column

Sheryl Sandberg, the Woman Behind Facebook's Business Model

May 18, 2012

Andrej Sokolow

Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook's initial public offering would not have been possible without her. Sheryl Sandberg translates the ideas of chief executive Mark Zuckerberg into reality and profit.

As chief operating officer of the social networking site, 42-year-old Sandberg makes sure that the numbers add up and the company grows.

To develop a business model and steer Facebook into the future, Zuckerberg - then in his early 20s - hired the long-time Google manager as "adult supervision."

When Sandberg arrived, Facebook had about 66 million users. Today the number is more than 900 million. Much of the credit for Facebook's huge and seemingly effortless expansion to annual revenues estimated at nearly $4 billion goes to her.

"Without her we would just be incomplete," Zuckerberg was quoted as saying in an article published by Bloomberg Businessweek last year, in which Sandberg admitted crying on the job and being consoled by him.

According to Facebook's initial public offering prospectus, Sandberg was the company's top earner last year. Although her base annual salary is listed at $296,000 dollars plus an $86,000-bonus, she has also received a large parcel of Facebook shares valued at $30.5 million.

Sandberg grew up in Miami. Her mother worked as an English teacher and her father as an ophthalmologist. While studying at Harvard Business School in the early 1990s, she attracted the attention of Lawrence Summers, then an economics professor at the elite institution. Summers became her mentor, and when he was named the chief economist at the World Bank in 1991, he recruited her as his research assistant.

Summers became treasury secretary under US President Bill Clinton in 1999 and made Sandberg, not quite 30, his chief of staff. When the Democrats lost the 2000 presidential elections, she joined Google.

After serving more than six years there as vice president for global online sales and operations, she sought a promotion to chief operating officer. But as Google expert Ken Auletta wrote in the US magazine New Yorker, Google's bosses had other ideas.

So Sandberg was ready for new challenges when she met Zuckerberg, a Harvard University dropout.

Sandberg is capable of heading any company she wanted to, Zuckerberg told Businessweek. She and Zuckerberg have something in common from student days.

Like Zuckerberg more than a decade later, Sandberg had managed to cause Harvard's computer system to crash. She had entered too much data for a project on violence against women.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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