Facebook’s board needs to get a spine and fire Mark Zuckerberg, marketing guru Scott Galloway said

Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Facebook ought to fire both CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg for the string of failures on their watch, marketing professor Scott Galloway said at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference Monday.
  • Zuckerberg holds majority control over Facebook, but the board ought to get the nerve up to fire him anyway, Galloway said.
  • Sandberg may be a feminist icon, but she still ought to be held accountable for Facebook’s scandals and fiascos, he said.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may have effective control of the company, but its board can and should fire him anyway, marketing expert Scott Galloway said Monday at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference in New York.

And the company ought to fire Sheryl Sandberg, its chief operating officer, while it’s at it, said Galloway, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Given all the failures that Zuckerberg and Sandberg have overseen and the threat Facebook poses to democracy and civil society, they ought to be replaced, he said. The only reason the board hasn’t replaced Zuckerberg yet is because it’s weak and has refused to stand up to him, he said.

“He can and should be fired,” Galloway said.

Zuckerberg holds more than half of the voting power at Facebook, thanks to special shares that give him extra votes. That power means that he can appoint and fire the company’s board of directors at will and by himself determine the outcome of any shareholder vote.

Outside observers have said that power makes Zuckerberg untouchable. In his talk, Galloway acknowledged that if Facebook’s board fired Zuckerberg as its CEO, he could turn around and force all of the directors to resign.

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Zuckerberg won’t burn down the castle

Galloway, a professor at New York University, also called on Facebook to fire Sheryl Sandberg, its chief operating officer. Business Insider

But Galloway doubted Zuckerberg would do that. Such a move would be a “five-alarm fire” to regulators, opening up the company to even greater scrutiny from policymakers than it’s facing today, potentially causing great damage to the company, he said.

“I don’t think [Zuckerberg] would burn down the castle to save it,” he said.

Facebook has been reeling from a series of scandals and fiascos over the last two years, including the hijacking of its systems to spread Russian propaganda during the 2016 election; the incitement of genocide against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority; the leak of data on tens of millions of Facebook users to the Donald Trump-linked data firm, Cambridge Analytica; and the exposure of tens of millions of other users’ personal information in a hacking attack. More recently, the company has come under fire for hiring a public relations firm to conduct opposition research on anti-Facebook groups and to attempt to link them to George Soros, in a move that mirrored longstanding anti-Semitic smears.

Similar to the situation with Zuckerberg, Galloway said there’s been too much handwringing over what can and should be done about Sandberg, who has served as his top lieutenant and has overseen many of the functions at the center of the company’s fiascos. Sandberg is one of the few high-ranking female executives in the tech industry and became something of a feminist icon with her book, “Lean In.” There’s concern that attacks on Sandberg are misogynist or, because she’s Jewish, anti-Semitic, Galloway said.

But holding Sandberg accountable for the record of failures during her watch would be neither, he said. Instead, it’s what’s necessary and what should be normal, he said.

“What do we do about Sheryl Sandberg? Fire her,” he said.