(Reuters) — Meta Platforms veteran Javier Olivan takes over as the company’s chief operating officer after playing a crucial but largely hidden role in the social media company’s explosive growth for 15 years.
The Spaniard will replace Sheryl Sandberg, who announced on Wednesday that she was leaving Meta.
The move comes as Meta struggles with slowing growth and rising costs. It’s transforming from a social media company into one focused on building the Metaverse, a collection of virtual worlds that could be a decade away.
Olivan, who grew up in the Pyrenees region of northern Spain, holds degrees in electrical and industrial engineering from the University of Navarre and a master’s degree in business administration from Stanford University.
Before joining Facebook in late 2007 as head of international growth, Olivan, 44, worked at NTT and Siemens in Japan.
When it arrived, Facebook was a young company with around 40 million users and now has almost 3.6 billion users on Facebook and other apps such as Instagram.
While overseeing its international moves, Olivan pushed Facebook’s expansion into countries including India, Japan, Russia, Indonesia and Brazil, according to a 2010 interview he gave to VentureBeat.
Critics say the company has pursued this growth without sufficient safeguards against the spread of misinformation, hate speech or harmful content in emerging markets.
Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager and whistleblower, last year leaked internal documents she said showed Facebook put profits above user safety and lacked adequate controls to remove harmful content. in languages other than English.
Olivan, who media reports love paragliding and surfing, recently served as chief growth officer. In this position, he managed features and functions that span Facebook and Instagram as well as WhatsApp and Messenger messaging apps.
In his new position, he will continue to lead the company’s infrastructure and development. But its portfolio will also include advertising and commerce products, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
One thing is unlikely to change. Olivan will continue to stay out of the spotlight as he does the job of COO. This contrasts with Sandberg, who has appeared before Congress, written a bestselling book on women in the workplace and often represented Facebook to outside audiences.
“This role will be different from what Sheryl has done. It will be a more traditional COO role where Javi will focus internally and operationally, building on his strong background to make our execution more efficient and rigorous,” said Zuckerberg said.
Now that Meta is a mature company with $118 billion in revenue, Olivan may have less autonomy than Sandberg when she joined the company in the company’s early years, Brian Wieser said, global president of economic intelligence at the advertising agency GroupM.
A key question is whether Olivan will be “more attentive” to issues around data privacy as well as protecting brands from running their ads alongside inappropriate content, Wieser said.