Sir Nick Clegg will join a host of senior Facebook executives moving to London after four years in Silicon Valley, although he predicts an “economically unstable” Britain would bleed dry tech companies in the wake of Brexit.
The former Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister, 55, who is president of global affairs at Facebook’s parent company Meta, will split his time between London and California upon his return to the UK.
Sir Nick – who left the UK to work for billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg after losing his seat as MP – has made no secret of his longing to leave California, saying last year that his “heart was massive Heard 5,000 miles away.”
However, the decision is likely to raise eyebrows given his history of outspoken warnings about the damage Brexit would do to UK plc – particularly in the industry he is now employed in.
In a 2017 interview, he said, “Pretty much everyone I talk to privately in tech feels that sucking noise. Things that could have started here in Berlin.
“Investments that could have been made here are being put on hold. New innovations that could have thrived here are beginning to thrive in Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Lisbon.”
Meta has expanded in London, despite Sir Nick’s earlier concerns, opening a new 620,000-square-foot office in Kings Cross earlier this year to house 4,000 employees.
News of his move comes a day after it was revealed that Instagram boss Adam Mosseri is moving to London as the app struggles to prevent an exodus of users to rival TikTok. Chief Marketing Officer Alex Schultz will also move to the UK this year.
Meta declined to comment.
Sir Nick is said to have decided to retire for personal reasons, including being close to his elderly parents.
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, Sir Nick’s lawyer, was also reluctant to leave the capital when they went to California, telling the Evening Standard in 2019: “It’s never a good time to leave London.”
Sir Nick joined Facebook in 2018 as head of global affairs and rose through the ranks to become Mark Zuckerberg’s number two – with the title of president of global affairs – when chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg resigned earlier this year.
The former Liberal Democrat leader was promoted six months ago, and his new role puts him in charge of the company’s dealings with all governments worldwide.
He reports directly to CEO Mr Zuckerberg and was given £10million in shares in Facebook parent company Meta as part of his promotion, on top of his reported £2.7million salary.
Mr. Zuckerberg has elected to transition to remote work at Meta since the pandemic began, but just this year a number of executives decided to move away from its Silicon Valley headquarters.
Sir Nick’s California mansion was worth around £7million when he and wife Durantez bought it in 2019. Forbes magazine described its location in Atherton, a city in California’s Silicon Valley, as “the most expensive ZIP code” in the entire United States.
Ms Durantez posted on Instagram in 2019 amid a litany of complaints about the US: “A week and a half in California and I’ve already had to fill out 63 registration forms – and no, not even all of them were online! Next time Brexiteers complain about European bureaucracy, just point them to the US.”
The former Sheffield Hallam MP led Facebook’s response to the invasion of Ukraine, banning Russian propaganda channels RT and Sputnik from the social networking site. Sir Nick also relaxed Facebook’s rules on violence to prevent moderators from deleting posts by Ukrainians calling for armed resistance to the Russian invaders.
Russia’s response has been to ban Facebook and Instagram from operating within its borders, costing Meta an estimated $1.7 billion (£1.4 billion) in lost revenue.
Meta’s most recent financial results saw its first-ever revenue decline from $29 billion to $28.8 billion in the three months ended June.