For an entrepreneur who has made “community” his life’s mission, Mark Zuckerberg has always seemed oddly fixated on managing his own appearance. There was his decision to hire Barack Obama’s former campaign manager ahead of a weird pseudo-political bus tour in which he was attended by a flock of handlers and a photographer famous for documenting Obama’s presidency. There were his heavily produced “personal challenges” (one of which included a commercial with a Morgan Freeman voiceover), the birth announcements doubling as corporate restructuring, and a personal security budget in 2021 that was nearly 16 times what Amazon Inc. spent to keep Jeff Bezos safe.
All of this might seem excessive, but one could argue that it made at least some sense from a business perspective. Meta Platforms Inc., the parent of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, is closely identified with its co-founder and supreme leader. How a chief executive officer is publicly perceived affects a company—so, if you’re a Facebook investor, you probably wouldn’t complain if you found out that Zuckerberg had hired a pollster to go around asking people how they felt about him personally. For years, this approach also seemed to apply to his chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.