Sheryl Sandberg Leaned on Tabloid to Drop Story on Ex: Report

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Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook’s parent company Meta, is in hot water for reportedly pressuring the Daily Mail to kill a story idea on a restraining order filed against her former boyfriend Bobby Kotick, the CEO of the video-game company Activision Blizzard.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that MailOnline, the digital version of the British tabloid, was reporting on a restraining order that had been filed in 2014 against Kotick by an ex-girlfriend. Court filings show that the accuser alleged that Kotick had harassed her at her home and later received a temporary restraining order against him. Three weeks later, the order ended and the matter was ultimately dismissed from the court with the former girlfriend telling others that some of her claims were inaccurate.

Sources tell the Journal that Sandberg reached out to MailOnline on two separate occasions about the article concerning Kotick. The first instance came in 2016, when Sandberg and Kotick reportedly discussed how to handle the story with advisers and employees of both of their companies. After he was contacted by Sandberg, Martin Clarke, the editor of MailOnline at the time, reportedly told employees that the story would no longer run. In 2019, Sandberg reportedly emailed the chairman of the Daily Mail’s parent company — Jonathan Harmsworth, also known by his aristocratic title Viscount Rothermere, whose great-grandfather founded the paper. After contacting him while the outlet was investigating for the second time, Lord Rothermere referred Sandberg back to Clarke.

Perhaps the most troubling allegation against Sandberg — who published the 2013 self-empowerment book Lean In — is that she threatened the Daily Mail’s business connection with Facebook if the outlet were to run the article. While the Journal reports that Kotick told people that Sandberg made that quid pro quo in 2016, both he and Meta denied this allegation on Thursday. “Sheryl Sandberg never threatened the MailOnline’s business relationship with Facebook in order to influence an editorial decision,” says the Meta statement. However, the Journal reports that Facebook is looking into Sandberg’s actions and whether they violate the company’s policies.

Sheryl Sandberg Leaned on Tabloid to Cut Story on Ex: Report