In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg detailed her negotiations with Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg as she was being scouted for the position of chief operating officer. Poised to become the social network’s number two, the Harvard MBA noted that she was “dying” to accept the job but was “afraid of doing anything that might botch the deal.”
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“I could play hardball, but then maybe Mark would not want to work with me,” she wrote in a chapter titled “Success and Likeability.” “Was it worth it when I knew that ultimately I was going to accept the offer?”
Six years after she took the job, Sandberg has reached another milestone. Facebook’s COO is now the world’s newest billionaire.
As Facebook’s share price soared in trading Thursday morning, Sandberg’s fortune–propelled by her more than 12 million shares of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based internet company–crossed the 10-figure threshold. FORBES estimates she is worth just over $1 billion with Facebook shares up 14.27% to $61.17 as of 1:46 pm EST on Thursday.
A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A mother of two, Sandberg, 44, is one of the youngest female billionaires in the world. She is also one of a handful of women in the billionaire club–like Spanx’s Sara Blakely, Tory Burch and Oprah Winfrey–who made their own fortunes, rather than inherited them. In 2013, there were 24 self-made female billionaires of the 1,426 on FORBES’ annual list.
“She’s one of the higher paid executives in Silicon Valley,” said Aaron Boyd, director of research at Equilar, which tracks executive compensation. “She is someone that they brought in specifically to get them to the finish line of being a public company.”
It’s Sandberg’s equity, not her $300,000 a year salary, that’s made her a billionaire. Financial filings released before Facebook’s May 2012 initial public offering revealed that the former Google vice president owned more than 38 million restricted stock units. Those stock units did not vest until the IPO, and did not make her a billionaire at the time.
After vesting restrictions were met and certain shares were withheld because of taxes, Sandberg has seen a considerable portion of those stock units turn into Facebook shares. As of Thursday, she owns just over 12 million shares and nearly 600,000 exercisable options, after selling off large swaths of shares since the IPO. She gained a post-tax sum of about $10 million on Tuesday after selling nearly 255,000 shares.
FORBES calculations show that since Facebook’s May 2012 IPO, Sandberg has sold more than 9 million shares and gifted 829,000 shares. After deducting taxes, the cash she earned from those sales is worth more than $250 million. Sandberg also has a small amount of Walt Disney Co. shares as a current board member and Starbucks stock after serving as a director there.
Facebook’s booming stock price can be attributed to its strong fourth quarter numbers announced on Wednesday. During the company’s earnings call, the company said that net earnings rose more than eightfold from a year ago to $523 million. That was due largely to a 63% rise in sales to $2.6 billion. Most impressive, noted Sandberg, was the $1.25 billion in mobile revenue, which was nearly equal to Facebook’s total revenue in the quarter 12 months earlier.
“This is not only the first time we crossed the 50% threshold in mobile, but it’s also our first billion dollar mobile quarter,” she said Wednesday.
Under Sandberg, Facebook has turned one of its weaknesses, mobile engagement and sales, into one of its strengths. And with Facebook’s share price soaring to never-before-seen heights, Zuckerberg must be pleased. In 2007, Sandberg turned down Zuckerberg’s first job offer after receiving advice from a relative that “no man at my level” would consider taking the first offer.
“I went back to Mark and said a I couldn’t accept,” Sandberg wrote in Lean In. “But I prefaced it by telling him, ‘Of course you realize that you’re hiring me to run your deal teams, so you want me to be a good negotiator. This is the only time you and I will ever be on opposite sides of the table.’”
Six years on from that meeting, things have been going well on the same side of the table.
With reporting from Rob Hof in Palo Alto and Jeff Bercovici and Scott DeCarlo in New York.
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