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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ‘starting to plant the seeds’ to step down: Author

·3 min read
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When Amazon (AMZN) Chairman Jeff Bezos stepped down as CEO earlier this month and wasted no time launching into space, some may have wondered when Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg would step down from the tech giant he founded.

In fact, Zuckerberg is already starting to prepare for his own exit, says Cecilia Kang, a New York Times technology reporter and co-author of a new insider account of Facebook called, “An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination."

Kang, whose book draws on interviews with 400 people in and around Facebook, told Yahoo Finance in a recent interview that Zuckerberg aspires to follow the path to philanthropy tread by former Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Bill Gates, whom Zuckerberg considers a mentor. But the current array of challenges at Facebook will make it difficult for Zuckerberg to leave "anytime soon," Kang says.

"We're seeing him start to plant the seeds," she says. "We've got that idea from talking to people who talked to Mark directly about his real ambitions to emulate sort of the path that Bill Gates took."

In response to the remarks from Kang, a Facebook spokesperson said, "Mark Zuckerberg has no plans to step down."

Zuckerberg, 37, in 2015 co-founded the philanthropic organization Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative alongside his wife, Priscilla Chan, and both serve as co-CEOs. The organization, headquartered a 10-minute drive north from Palo Alto, focuses on fighting disease, improving education, and helping local communities.

The Chan-Zuckerberg initiative replicates the model set forward by Gates with the founding of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which Gates and his ex-wife Melinda Gates lead as co-chairs. That organization launched in 2000, the same year Gates stepped down as CEO but eight years prior to his leaving the company's board.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance, Kang said Zuckerberg's philanthropic pursuits offer a vision for his life after Facebook. 

"We're already seeing that with the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative," Kang says. "He's talked to Bill Gates — who is a mentor of him — for advice." 

But Kang acknowledged that the pressing issues at Facebook will likely keep Zuckerberg at the company for the foreseeable future. While the pandemic brought record profits and strong user growth, it also saw growing desire in Washington D.C. for a regulatory crackdown against the company.

In recent weeks, the company has faced a lawsuit from former President Donald Trump over alleged censorship, and an allegation from President Joe Biden that social media platforms are "killing people" with the spread of vaccine misinformation. After a response from Facebook, Biden walked back the criticism

"I think Facebook has just so many issues right now to work out," she says. "[Zuckerberg] just can't possibly step away early on."

"I also think that he's so incredibly curious about technology, and he's so incredibly competitive," she adds. "That he would hate to see the next thing take over Facebook." 

"That is going to be really hard for him to leave his day job anytime soon," she says.

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Kang joined The New York Times after a decade at the Washington Post, following stints with the San Jose Mercury and Dow Jones.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance, Kang explained that Zuckerberg concentrated power under himself during the Trump era, as the former president tested the company's policies on hate speech and data privacy. For now, he has not given up that additional power, she said.

"I definitely believe that Facebook is an embodiment of Mark Zuckerberg, and it continues to do so and it doesn't look like he's really letting go of that control in any way," she says.

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