Among the most prominent global tech companies, Meta has been one of the few to fully embrace remote working. Its top executives have been encouraged to base themselves wherever in the world they please – prompting three of its senior managers to up sticks to London.
Sir Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister turned president of global affairs at Facebook’s parent company, is making a partial return to Britain as he splits his time between King’s Cross and Silicon Valley.
It comes despite the Liberal Democrat having lambasted the country’s “un-British” decision to leave the European Union, predicting a post-Brexit UK would be “economically insecure”.
Sir Nick joins executives including Adam Mosseri, the globetrotting head of Instagram whose previous remote office locations include Hawaii and Cape Cod, as well as Alex Schulz, Meta’s chief of marketing.
While on the surface it may seem the lure of London – and Meta’s state-of-the-art offices – is stronger than Californian sunshine, recent retreats point to deeper turmoil inside Meta. Some suggest it lies in the current visions of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and his increasing unwillingness to be challenged.
On a staff call in June the chief executive reacted sharply when an employee asked if Meta Days, extra holidays introduced during the pandemic, would continue.
“Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here,” retorted the 38-year-old.
Reaction was mixed: a post on Workplace, the company’s internal noticeboard, reportedly quipped: “Who hired them?”
Meta is at pains to say its itinerant executives are merely visiting other countries, inferring their hearts and minds remain firmly rooted at its Menlo Park headquarters in California. While that may be true for some of the current crop, a slew of departures over the last couple of years raises the question of whether Zuckerberg is becoming increasingly isolated.
Earlier this year, Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s long-term chief technical officer, was superseded by Andrew “Boz” Bosworth as Meta’s chief technology officer. Bosworth’s latest public pronouncement was to declare that he was taking a month off work: “I tell my team often to take the time they need, as I think that has been a major key to my longevity in this industry.”
Meanwhile, Antonio Lucio, Schulz’s predecessor as marketing chief and a veteran of Hewlett Packard, walked out of Facebook to become a diversity consultant in mid-2020, saying the move would mark the “twilight” of his career.
And Fidji Simo, a 36-year-old female executive heading up the core Facebook app, left last year to run grocery delivery app Instacart. She told CNBC at the time that Zuckerberg had been “incredibly supportive” of her departure, adding: “Obviously sad that we couldn’t find something that aligned at Facebook, but also incredibly supportive of me taking on this role.”
Her departure sent ripples through the world of Big Tech, not least because of an anecdote doing the rounds about the background to her decision. The leadership of Instagram was said to be up for grabs, and Simo was summoned to Zuckerberg to describe her vision for growing the product. She didn’t get the job.