Mark Zuckerberg has reached out to Microsoft president Brad Smith, which is bad for Sheryl Sandberg because it shows how messy things have gotten under her watch

Sheryl Sandberg

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Sheryl Sandberg
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  • Mark Zuckerberg recently reach out to Microsoft president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, according to a report by The Information on Monday.
  • Smith reportedly told Zuckerberg he was happy at Microsoft and had no intention of leaving.
  • The outreach to the Microsoft president should be cause for concern for Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who holds a similar role to Smith at the social networking giant.
  • Earlier this year, Sandberg reportedly said she felt her job was in question and after a series of scandals in 2018, the COO’s future at Facebook isn’t looking any brighter.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reached out for advice to Microsoft president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, according to a report by The Information on Monday.

Though a formal job offer was not discussed, according to a person from the report familiar with the talk, Smith did tell Zuckerberg he was happy at Microsoft and had no intention of leaving.

The consultation with the Microsoft exec may make sense for Zuckerberg, who reportedly has in the past turned to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates for business advice. But it does not bode well for the company’s current chief operating officer – Sheryl Sandberg.

As The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Dwoskin pointed out on Twitter Monday, Smith and Sandberg perform somewhat similar roles at their respective companies. Meaning, if Smith were ever brought on to Facebook, Sandberg would likely have to go.

Smith and Sandberg’s roles aren’t exactly the same, with each executive overseeing a slightly different portfolio of responsibilities. But Smith and Sandberg both essentially serve as the No.2 executive, alongside the CEO.

According to Facebook, Zuckerberg’s outreach to Microsoft’s Smith was not a recruiting call. A spokesperson sent the following statement to Business Insider: “After Cambridge Analytica, Mark reached out to a number of people – including Brad Smith – for advice on the situation Facebook was in. He never spoke to Brad about joining Facebook.”

Still, the fact that Zuckerberg feels the need to reach out to Microsoft’s No.2 exec is telling.

Six years ago, Sandberg played the role of experienced exec coming into Facebook to clean things up. After nearly seven years at Google – leaving as VP of global online sales and operations – Sandberg joined Facebook as COO, where she coached a young, inexperience Zuckerberg and helped the company grow into the $400 billion market cap that it enjoys today. The success of her 2013 career advice book for women, “Lean In,” further burnished her credentials as a business superstar.

But 2018 has been a difficult year for the chief operating exec and author, as the scandals and revelations have piled up. Just last month, The New York Times reported that Sandberg tried to downplay Russia’s involvement in misinformation campaigns on Facebook during the 2016 US election. Facebook’s controversial decision to hire a Republican-affiliated opposition research firm to hit back at Facebook critics, including financier George Soros, also occurred on her watch.

Read more: Michelle Obama on Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘lean in’ strategy: ‘That s— doesn’t work all the time’

Sandberg herself was said to have felt that her job security was in question earlier this year.

At Business Insider’s IGNITION conference last week, marketing expert and NYU professor Scott Galloway said someone should be held accountable for Facebook’s missteps and that Sandberg would be his choice.

“What do we do about Sheryl Sandberg?” he said. “Fire her.”

Last month, Zuckerberg was quoted saying he hopes to work with Sandberg “for decades.”

And with Microsoft’s Smith declaring himself happy on his current employer’s payroll, Sandberg’s job may be safe from one immediate threat. But the fact that Zuckerberg reached out to Smith in the first place is a clear sign that the partnership that’s defined Facebook for the past decade may be coming to an end.