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The most important Facebook exec most people haven't heard of

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer
Chris Cox, Chief Product Officer at Facebook, speaks during the Wall Street Journal Digital Live ( WSJDLive ) conference at the Montage hotel in Laguna Beach, California October 20, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

This week Facebook (FB) announced that its biggest products, including Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook itself are being put under the purview of a long-time Facebook executive, Chris Cox.

Cox, in his mid-thirties, has long been a fixture at the social media giant since joining the company in 2005 after dropping out of Stanford. Though he hasn’t been as high-profile as other executives like Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg, he’s widely respected for his versatility.

In his 12-plus years at Facebook, Cox has worked as an engineer, as the director of human resources, and in his current capacity as Chief Product Officer, three distinct sides of the company. This diverse background makes him a model company man, and even today he’s said to lead new-employee orientations.

Cox’s varied experience within Facebook has also made him one of Zuckerberg’s most trusted lieutenants. The team he will be running is responsible for Facebook’s most important and lucrative products, and Facebook’s recent flubs over the Cambridge Analytica scandal is thought to be behind the shakeup.

With Cox in charge, Zuckerberg can be confident that the ship is in good hands, or at the very least, hands steeped in over a decade of understanding the company’s history, vision, and direction forward. Recently, Zuckerberg has been obligated to be a visible representative of the company, something that doubtless has robbed him of managerial hours.

In an interview with Recode, Cox elaborated on his relationship with Zuckerberg.

“When you know someone really well, you know how to talk to them. You know who they are, and you know how to listen to them,” Cox told Recode. “All of that stuff just makes getting work done together a lot easier because so much of working with somebody is communicating what you care about and why. Knowing somebody well means you [don’t] have to get to the bottom of what someone’s motivations are every time you interact.”

Cox now heads all of Facebook’s consumer-facing projects, but there’s a ton Facebook is doing that hasn’t crystallized into a product with billions of users. The organizational shifts left two other groups besides Cox’s. The “New platforms and infra” division will be led by CTO Mike Schroepfer, which will deal with AR, VR, AI, and blockchain (which David Marcus, Messenger’s former chief, is leading) and the “Central product services” division will oversee ads, security, and growth.” The official name for Cox’s division is “Family of apps.”

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann. Confidential tip line: FinanceTips[at]oath[.com].

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