In an unusual choice, Facebook is bringing on Nick Clegg, the former UK deputy prime minister, to head up its policy and communications teams.
Clegg is replacing Elliot Schrage, a longtime executive who stepped down this summer. He comes to the company at a turbulent time, with election interference and misinformation scandals, data breaches and hacks hitting it again and again, with the threat of regulation looming more closely than ever before.
The former politician is a Silicon Valley outsider, joining a team of executives known for sticking together—until this year, which has seen multiple high-profile exits. UK media are calling Clegg’s move a “shock” and “surprise.” The news was first reported by the Financial Times, which notes that Clegg could be an asset in the company’s dealings with regulators, particularly those in Brussels, because of his experience as a member of the EU parliament and European Commission trade negotiator. The paper also notes that Clegg agreed to take the position after “months of wooing” by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook was not immediately available for comment, but Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer, wrote a welcome post for Clegg on her Facebook page, calling him a “thoughtful and gifted leader.”
“Our company is on a critical journey,” she wrote. “The challenges we face are serious and clear and now more than ever we need new perspectives to help us though this time of change.”
In the UK, the move sparked a different kind of reaction.
Clegg has served as an MP, and deputy prime minister in the UK when his party, the Liberal Democrats, ruled in coalition with David Cameron’s Conservative party between 2010 and 2015. Under his leadership, the Liberal Democrats suffered significant losses. Clegg lost his own seat in 2017.
Others pointed out that Clegg’s recent venture into the tech world was a bumpy one. Earlier this year he was named as chairman of the board for UK health start-up Cera, which Bloomberg reported was posting fake reviews for its services, among other missteps.