Facebook Inc. said yesterday that it hired Google Inc. veteran Sheryl Sandberg to serve as its chief operating officer, a coup in its drive to turn the popular social networking site into a major moneymaker.
As Google's vice president for global online sales and operations, Sandberg, 38, ran the Internet giant's lucrative advertising arm, which generates 99 percent of its revenue and employs thousands of people around the world. Facebook has been searching for the best way to manage its rapid growth and generate advertising revenue without alienating its 66 million users.
Competition between the Internet players has escalated as they scuffle over top talent. In July, Facebook hired Gideon Yu, the former chief financial officer of Google-owned YouTube Inc.
As momentum shifts to Facebook, the 500-employee company has shown it has the cachet and muscle to win these skirmishes. It scooped up a $15 billion valuation in October with a $240 million investment from Microsoft Corp. Microsoft beat out Google for the tiny stake in Facebook.
The defection helped continue the recent punishment of Google's stock, which dropped to a new 52-week low of $435.78 yesterday before bouncing back to close at $444.60, down $12.42.
Sandberg's hiring follows last month's announcement that Owen Van Natta, Facebook's chief revenue officer and former chief operating officer, would leave to pursue a chief executive role at another company.
Sandberg said she and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 23, met and hit it off at Silicon Valley financier Dan Rosensweig's Christmas party. Her mentor and Facebook investor Roger McNamee encouraged the match after Sandberg asked for his advice about a different job offer she was weighing.
The executive, whose Google holdings have made her a multimillionaire, said she was drawn to Facebook by the opportunity to again tap into the power of the Internet to change how people communicate. She said she also felt a deep connection to Zuckerberg's vision.
"Facebook represents one of the most exciting opportunities there could be, if not the most exciting opportunity," Sandberg said.
Sandberg will manage sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy, privacy and communications. She will report directly to Zuckerberg.
"Sheryl is a great manager who will help scale Facebook's operations globally," Zuckerberg said in a statement.
Sandberg, who joined Google as one of its first few hundred employees in November 2001, helped build and run the company's online sales and operations. She also helped spearhead Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org.
She is one of Silicon Valley's most prominent women executives, with a powerhouse resume that includes stints as chief of staff for the U.S. Treasury Department, a management consultant for McKinsey & Co. and an economist at the World Bank.
Sandberg said she decided to leave Google to seek a new challenge and to recapture some of that startup excitement she experienced in the Internet giant's early days.
Sandberg will be replaced at Google by her longtime No. 2, David Fischer, vice president for online sales and operations.
"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 of global sales and business development, said in a statement.
Jessica Guynn writes for the Los Angeles Times.