Sheryl Sandberg has been one of Facebook’s biggest cheerleaders for more than a decade. Since joining the social media platform as chief operating officer in 2008, she was crucial in forming the business strategy that morphed Facebook (now named Meta Platforms) into the tech powerhouse it is today. She helped early on with the mobile advertising strategy and defended Facebook during multiple scandals, becoming one of its most visible executives—and a billionaire worth an estimated $1.6 billion—along the way.
But the Meta executive, who announced Wednesday she will be stepping down from her long-time position this fall, has also been aggressively unloading her stake in the company since it went public in 2012. Forbes calculates that Sandberg has parted with 92% of the shares she owned as of March 2013–shortly after Facebook’s May 2012 initial public offering. Altogether that’s more than $2 billion worth of stock. And she sold a whole lot of it in the years right after Facebook went public.
One of Facebook’s earliest executives, recruited by founder Mark Zuckerberg from Google, where she was the vice president of global online sales and operations, Sandberg owned nearly 17.9 million shares as of March 2013. Within a year she had offloaded about 30% of her stake ; by 2015, an additional 42% of her shares were sold or given away. Her share sales started to slow down in 2016 before coming to a halt in late 2019, despite Meta’s share price reaching an all-time high in late 2021. Sandberg hasn’t sold any stock since October 2019, though she has given up stock to settle tax payments for restricted stock grants in recent years.
In total, Sandberg has sold more than $1.8 billion worth of Meta stock to date, according to FactSet based on public filings. (That amount is pre-tax.) She has also donated roughly $350 million worth of Meta Platforms shares (as well as $30 million worth of SurveyMonkey shares) to donor advised funds, primarily the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Fund. Once a donation is made to a donor advised fund, it’s hard to tell where the money goes.
Ace Forbes reported in late 2019, it appears that only a small portion of that donor advised fund money has in turn been shifted into LeanIn.org and OptionB.org, two nonprofit groups Sandberg started. From 2013 through 2019, LeanIn and OptionB received $32 million from Sandberg via The Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, per a Forbes analysis of public filings. There is also no sign that the money went to any other nonprofit at that time.
A spokesperson for Sandberg did not immediately respond to questions from Forbes but told CNBC that she received 48 million shares, options and restricted stock units while at Meta and sold 42 million of them. Some 22 million were sold through a 10b5-1 pre-schedule selling program and another 20 million were sold for tax purposes. Sandberg gave away 4.9 million shares, including 2.8 million directed to her donor-advised funds and 2.1 million that were irrevocable transfers to trusts for beneficiaries, the spokesperson said.
Sandberg still has about 1.4 million shares in Meta – or less than 0.1% of the company. The shares are worth just under $290 million at Meta’s closing share price on Thursday and account for about 17% of her net worth, Forbes estimates. About three-quarters of Sandberg’s wealth comes from Facebook stock sales over the years. She also owns nearly 8.9 million shares of Momentive Global, parent company of SurveyMonkey, where her late husband, Dave Goldberg (d. 2015), was the CEO.
Sandberg is holding onto her seat on Meta’s board of directors, but said she is planning to focus on her family and philanthropic work. She certainly has the money to do so. “This is not a job that leaves a lot of room for much else,” she told Forbes in an interview about her departure. “I want some more control over what I do with my own time on a daily basis.”