Facebook loses top product officer Chris Cox as well as WhatsApp chief

Facebook Inc.’s top executive in charge of all products, Chris Cox, the longtime confidant of Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, is leaving the company. It’s the highest-level departure at the social media giant in years and follows nearly two years of sustained crises.

Cox’s unexpected departure, which he and Zuckerberg announced in separate Facebook posts Thursday, comes months after Cox was promoted in a major reorganization. Last May, Cox was put in charge of Facebook’s “family of apps,” including Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Facebook itself — which together have more than 2.7 billion users worldwide. These apps have been distinct until recently, when Zuckerberg announced plans to unify them under a banner of privacy.

Chris Daniels, who heads Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp, is leaving as well, Zuckerberg said.

Facebook will not appoint a direct replacement for Cox. Longtime Facebook executive Will Cathcart will head up WhatsApp.

“It is with great sadness I share with you that after thirteen years, I’ve decided to leave the company,” Cox wrote in his post. “Since I was twenty-three, I’ve poured myself into these walls. This place will forever be a part of me.” Cox didn’t offer any explanation for his departure.

In his blog post, Zuckerberg said that Cox had told him that he planned to move on several years ago, but that Cox decided to hold off on leaving until the company made more progress combating misinformation and Russian meddling — controversies that erupted in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

“We have made real progress on many issues and we have a clear plan for our apps,” Zuckerberg said in his post. “As we embark on this next major chapter, Chris has decided now is the time to step back from leading these teams.”

Founding executives of Instagram and WhatsApp have also recently left the company.

The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.

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