Sheryl Sandberg Pressured Daily Mail to Drop Unflattering Story About Bobby Kotick While She Was Dating Him

Ben Fritz, Keach Hagey, Kirsten Grind, and Emily Glazer, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+ link):

In 2016 and 2019, Ms. Sandberg contacted the digital edition of the Daily Mail, which was reporting on a story that would have revealed the existence of a temporary restraining order against Mr. Kotick that had been obtained by a former girlfriend in 2014, according to people involved in the article and the campaigns to stop its publication.

Working with a team that included Facebook and Activision employees as well as paid outside advisers, Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Kotick developed a strategy to persuade the Daily Mail not to report on the restraining order, first when they began dating in 2016 and again around the time they were breaking up in 2019, the people said. Among other concerns, Ms. Sandberg’s legal and public-relations advisers, both inside and outside Facebook, worried that a story would reflect negatively on her reputation as an advocate for women.

It’s a well-worn adage but never more true: it’s the cover-up that does you in. Sandberg’s efforts to bury this story are now far more damaging to her reputation than the actual story would have been. She wasn’t even involved — only Kotick was.

Facebook recently started a review of Ms. Sandberg’s actions and whether she violated the company’s rules, according to people close to her and to Mr. Kotick. The review started after The Wall Street Journal began reporting on the incidents late last year, those people said.

Sandberg might be in some actual trouble over this. Having Facebook staffers do dirty work for Facebook is shitty, but it’s their job. Having them do dirty work for a boyfriend at Activision is something else. I’m no corporate governance expert but I think if she had called the Daily Mail, on her own, only as herself, it’d arguably have been defensible.

The digital edition of the Daily Mail, which is called the MailOnline and operates separately from the print publication, never published a story. Its reporting stemmed from 2014 court filings it had obtained that showed that an ex-girlfriend of Mr. Kotick’s had received a temporary restraining order against him after alleging that he harassed her at her home, according to people familiar with the situation and documents reviewed by the Journal.

The woman had initially petitioned for a longer-lasting order, but three weeks later the matter was removed from the court calendar at the request of both parties, and the temporary restraining order ended and the petition was dismissed, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records. The accuser later told people that the declaration she filed for the restraining order included many allegations that were either exaggerated or untrue, according to some of the people with knowledge of the matter.

This is the weirdest part of the story — Kotick’s ex-girlfriend effectively had neverminded the whole thing. If the story had come out in 2016 or 2019, it would have blown over as nothing more than a bad breakup.

Thursday, 21 April 2022