For years, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg had clear responsibilities, which employees often referred to as the ''Sandberg side'' and ''Mark side.''

Ms. Sandberg ran the business, policy and legal teams with a lot of autonomy, while Mr. Zuckerberg was responsible for the engineering and product teams.

That began changing in 2020 after Facebook dealt with scandals involving privacy, misinformation and other toxic content on the platform. Mr. Zuckerberg told his team that he was done apologizing and wanted to focus more time and attention on innovative products that the company was designing.

Since then, Mr. Zuckerberg has assumed more control over public messaging and policy decisions, which Ms. Sandberg used to handle. He also brought in hires with public policy expertise and promoted longtime executives who were loyal to his vision.

For more than a decade, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg began and ended each week by meeting together.

The symbolism of the ritual was clear. It was intended to signal that Mr. Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Meta, and Ms. Sandberg, chief operating officer, were in lock step with each other at the top of the company.

But when Ms. Sandberg, 52, said on Wednesday that she would step down from Meta this fall, she crystallized an unspoken change at the tech giant : Mr. Zuckerberg no longer has any clear No. 2.

While Mr. Zuckerberg named Javier Olivan, a longtime executive, to take over Ms. Sandberg's job when she departs, the importance of the chief operating officer role has diminished at Meta, which was formerly known as Facebook. Mr. Zuckerberg, 38, instead has four executives who have equally large responsibilities and who answer to and run major decisions by him.

Mr. Zuckerberg made the structural shift because he wanted to consolidate his control over all arms of the company, three people close to him said. 

While Mr. Zuckerberg has always been the undisputed boss, with a majority of the company's voting shares, he shared power with Ms. Sandberg when he was young businessman and needed help expanding the company.

But with more than 18 years of experience under his belt, he wants to exercise all of his power and be identified more clearly as Meta's sole leader, the people said.

The four top lieutenants are Andrew Bosworth, the chief technology officer; Nick Clegg, the president of global affairs; Chris Cox, the chief product officer; and Mr. Olivan, who was the head of growth, Mr. Zuckerberg said in a Facebook message about Mr. Sandberg's exit on Wednesday.

Each of the four men has major responsibilities. Mr. Clegg is the public face and ambassador for Meta, while Mr. Bosworth is pushing the company into immersive work of the so-called Metaverse. Mr. Cox oversees Meta's family of apps - Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook - and Mr. Olivan will be in charge of analytics, infrastructure and growth.

But none of them have as much power as Ms. Sandberg used to, when effectively ran all of the business operations while Mr. Zuckerberg focused on developing Facebook's products.

Mr. Zuckerberg alluded to the power shift on Wednesday in his Facebook post. He said he didn't ''plan to replace Sheryl's role in our existing structure,'' adding that Meta ''has reached the point where it makes sense for our product and business groups to be more closely integrated, rather than having all the business and operations functions organized separately from our products.''

R. A. Farookhnia, a professor at Columbia's Business and Engineering Schools, said the shift in management structure made sense as Meta invested in the Metaverse and moved away from the social networking model that Ms. Sandberg built an advertising business for and championed for years.

Moving in this direction requires a more decentralized - and more traditional - governance structure,'' Mr. Farrokhnia said. ''You have multiple people coming together where the sum of the parts becomes much larger.''

A spokesman for Meta declined to comment and declined to provide interviews with executives.

The publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks authors Sheera Frenkel and Mike Isaac.


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