The ranks of the world’s most exclusive club were swollen by one new member yesterday as Facebook’s second in command Sheryl Sandberg was hailed as a paper billionaire.
With 12.3m personal shares in the social networking phenomenon which she helped propel to its first profits after being lured from rival Google by founder Mark Zuckerberg six years ago, the 44-year-old mother of two will be updating her financial status courtesy of the tripling in the company’s stock market value, according to an estimate by the Bloomberg Billionaire Index.
After initially slumping in the wake of its public offering, Facebook shares closed this week at a record $58.51 (£35.33). Ms Sandberg, already arguably the most powerful woman in Silicon Valley is now one of the youngest female billionaires on the planet and will this week be mingling with fellow denizens of the global super-elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Facebook declined to comment on its chief operating officer’s net worth which has been routinely estimated at around the billion dollar mark for some time by media profilers extolling the achievements of her stellar career. Facebook’s recent stock market performance – fuelled by her success securing vast revenues from mobile advertising - appears to confirm what many had long been seen as inevitable.
Ms Sandberg, who also sits on the boards of Starbucks and Walt Disney, is reported to have already amassed a fortune in excess of $300m (£180m) after selling Facebook shares following the 2012 public offering. Her residual stake is now valued at $750m (£452m).
Last year her wealth was boosted by a $26.2m (£16m) remuneration package, $25.6m of which was in stock awards - a slight decline on the $31m (£19m) she received the previous year which have made her the highest paid executive at Facebook for two years running.
According to Forbes, there were 1,426 billionaires in the world in 2013 commanding between them an aggregate net worth of $5.6 trillion (£3.4trillion).
Last year’s list included 210 individuals with the requisite 10 figure fortune. The roll call included just 138 women, the wealthiest of whom was 90-year-old L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt who is reportedly worth $30bn (£18bn) making her the ninth richest person.
Ms Sandberg’s boss Mr Zuckerberg, 29, recently sold more than $2bn (£1.2bn) in stock and donated another $1bn to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation which provides grants to combat inequalities in the San Francisco Bay area.
David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect, which chronicles the history of the company, said Ms Sandberg had been the right person in the right place at the right time.
“She went to Google, moved on to go to Facebook, went to write a book, and she’ll know when to run for political office, and probably win that office,” he said.
Her bestselling Lean In, published last year, was as a manifesto to help women crack glass ceilings in traditionally male-dominated domains of big business and high power by the simple power of self-assertion. It argues: “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.”
Born into a highly educated Jewish family she moved seamlessly in the 1990s from Harvard to management consultancy McKinsey, then the World Bank and finally the US Treasury where she was chief of staff for her mentor Lawrence Summers during the Clinton administration.
She quit Washington following the Republican victory in 2000 moving to California to pursue a career in the burgeoning tech sector. She remains a supporter of President Obama and is married to entrepreneur Dave Goldberg.