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Facebook Says Chief Product Officer Chris Cox to Leave

Sarah Frier
Facebook Says Chief Product Officer Chris Cox to Leave

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. just lost its most important product executive.

Chief Product Officer Chris Cox is the highest-ranking leader to depart since the social-media giant became embroiled in crisis last year. He made the move following Facebook’s decision to integrate its apps more tightly and use more encryption, a big shift from the company’s current focus on public sharing.

“This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through,” he said in a Facebook post. The shares fell almost 2 percent in extended trading after the announcement.

Cox has been a key executive at Facebook, working there for more than a decade, helping design and run the news feed and then rising to become the most important product leader besides Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg. Cox also had a major influence on the company’s culture, leading orientation for new hires every Monday morning.

"For a few years, Chris has been discussing with me his desire to do something else," Zuckerberg wrote in a blog. "But after 2016, we both realized we had too much important work to do to improve our products for society, and he stayed to help us work through these issues and help us chart a course for our family of apps going forward."

Cox was well-liked internally, known for his easygoing style and for preaching about building products that involved more empathy for users. He oversaw Facebook’s transformation into a personalized information platform, making editorial tweaks to the company’s news feed algorithm.

The next era of Facebook product development will be dramatically different. The company wants users to be able to send information to each other across all the major apps it owns, including Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. The focus on encryption -- scrambling messages so even Facebook can’t see them -- may help ward off privacy critics while generating new revenue from areas where the company doesn’t have to police content.

Javier Olivan, an executive who worked with Cox, will lead the integration of Facebook’s apps, Zuckerberg said. Until now, Olivan has been responsible for growth across the company’s apps.

Chris Daniels, who took charge of the WhatsApp messaging service after the founders’ departure last year, is also leaving the company. Will Cathcart, who was in charge of the Facebook app, will now run WhatsApp, while Fidji Simo, Facebook’s video executive, will take over Facebook overall.

Zuckerberg said the new leaders will report directly to him. The CEO isn’t planning to replace Cox in the near term.

(Updates with details of other executives in eighth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Frier in San Francisco at sfrier1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr, Molly Schuetz

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