Meta Platforms veteran Javier Olivan takes over as the company’s chief operating officer after playing a crucial but largely behind-the-scenes role that has led to the social media company’s explosive growth for 15 years.
The Spaniard replaces Sheryl Sandberg, who announced on Wednesday that she is leaving Meta.
The move comes as Meta struggles with declining growth and rising costs. It’s transforming from a social media company to one that focuses on building the meta-verse, a collection of virtual worlds that may be a decade away.
Olivan, who grew up in the Pyrenees of northern Spain, has a degree in electrical and industrial engineering from the University of Navarra 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 for Japan’s NTT and Siemens.
When he joined, Facebook was a young company with about 40 million users and now has nearly 3.6 billion users across Facebook and other apps such as Instagram.
While monitoring his international efforts, Olivan pushed Facebook’s expansion into countries such as India, Japan, Russia, Indonesia and Brazil, according to an interview he gave in 2010 to VentureBeat.
Critics say the company pursued this growth without adequate safeguards against spreading misinformation, hate speech or harmful content in new markets.
Former Facebook product manager and whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal documents last year, which she said showed Facebook was surpassing user safety and lacked sufficient controls to remove harmful content in languages other than English.
Olivan, who according to media reports enjoys paragliding and surfing, has most recently served as growth manager. In that position, he has managed features and functions that span Facebook and Instagram as well as messaging apps WhatsApp and Messenger.
In his new job, he will continue to lead infrastructure and business development. But his portfolio will also include advertising and business products, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post Wednesday.
One thing will hardly change. Olivan will continue to stay out of the limelight while doing the COO job. This is in contrast to Sandberg, who performed before the congress, wrote a bestselling book about women in the workplace and often represented Facebook to an external audience.
“This role will be different from what Sheryl has done. It will be a more traditional COO role where Javi will be focused internally and operationally and build on his strong track record of making our execution more efficient and rigorous,” said Zuckerberg .
Now that Meta is a mature company with $ 118 billion in revenue, Olivan may have less autonomy than Sandberg had when she joined the company in its early years, said Brian Wieser, global president of business intelligence at advertising agency GroupM.
A key question is whether Olivan will be “more aware” of data protection issues as well as protecting brands from having their ads displayed next to inappropriate content, Wieser said.
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