SAN FRANCISCO - Facebook Inc. has raided Google Inc. to hire a new chief operating officer, providing the popular online social network with more seasoned management and advertising savvy as it strives to make more money without alienating its audience.
Sheryl Sandberg's defection from Google, effective March 24, represents a coup for Facebook just three months after it suffered a humiliating setback in its effort to inject more commercialism into its fun-loving website.
As Google's vice president of global online sales and operations for the past six years, Sandberg helped build the Internet search leader into one of the world's most prized companies. Before joining Google, she served as the Treasury Department's chief of staff during the Clinton administration.
Besides helping steer Facebook's expansion, Sandberg, 38, could serve as a mentor for the company's 23-year-old founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg.
Sandberg's departure from Google comes amid widening fears on Wall Street that the ad sales propelling Google's growth are bound to slow as the US economy flirts with a recession.
Worries about a general economic slowdown are the main reason Google's market value has plunged about 35 percent, or $75 billion, this year.
"I am certainly not leaving Google because there is anything wrong there," Sandberg said. "I think Google's best days are still ahead."
She said she couldn't turn down the chance to help Facebook shape the social networking craze. Facebook's audience has more than tripled in the past 11 months to 66 million users, making it the second-largest social network, behind News Corp.'s MySpace.com.
With 500 workers and more than $100 million in annual revenue, Facebook is smaller than Google, which has 17,000 workers and $16 billion in revenue.