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Mark Zuckerberg’s liaison with Microsoft exec Brad Smith is a bad sign for Sheryl Sandberg

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Mark Zuckerberg has spoken to Microsoft president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, about the possibility of joining Facebook, according to a report by The Information on Monday.

Though a formal job offer was not discussed, according to a person from the report familiar with the talk, Smith did tell Zuckerberg he was happy at Microsoft and had no intention of leaving.

The desire to bring the Microsoft bigwig into Facebook’s executive circle may make sense for Zuckerberg, who reportedly turns to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates for business advice. But it would not bode well for the company’s current chief operating officer — Sheryl Sandberg.

As The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Dwoskin pointed out on Twitter Monday, Smith and Sandberg perform somewhat similar roles at their respective companies. Meaning, if Smith were brought on, Sandberg would likely have to go.

Six years ago, Sandberg played the role of experienced exec coming into Facebook to clean things up. After nearly seven years at Google — leaving as VP of global online sales and operations — Sandberg joined Facebook as COO, where she coached a young, inexperience Zuckerberg and helped the company grow into the $400 billion market cap that it enjoys today. The success of her 2013 career advice book for women, “Lean In,” further burnished her credentials as a business superstar.

But 2018 has been a difficult year for the chief operating exec and author, as the scandals and revelations have piled up. Just last month, The New York Times reported that Sandberg tried to downplay Russia’s involvement in misinformation campaigns on Facebook during the 2016 US election. Facebook’s controversial decision to hire a Republican-affiliated opposition research firm to to hit back at Facebook critics, including financier George Soros, also occurred on her watch.

Read more: Michelle Obama on Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘lean in’ strategy: ‘That s— doesn’t work all the time’

Sandberg herself was said to have felt that her job security was in question earlier this year.

At Business Insider’s IGNITION conference last week, marketing expert and NYU professor Scott Galloway said someone should be held accountable for Facebook’s missteps and that Sandberg would be his choice.

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

With Microsoft’s Smith declaring himself happy on his current employer’s payroll, Sandberg’s job may be safe from one immediate threat. But the fact that Zuckerberg reached out to Smith in the first place is a clear sign that the partnership that’s defined Facebook for the past decade may be coming to an end.

Facebook did not immediately reply to Business Insider’s request for comment.

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