Robert Gibbs Reportedly In Talks For Job at Facebook

Would you rather work for President Obama or Mark Zuckerberg?

March 28, 2011, 2:09 PM

March 28, 2011— -- Former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs is reportedly in talks with Facebook to oversee the company's communications, potentially ending a planned role in President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign and making him the latest senior Democratic operative to leave the White House for a job with the social networking site.

A Facebook spokesman said the company "had no comment at this time" about the negotiations with Gibbs which were first reported on the New York Times website.

A source, however, confirmed the social media behemoth was talking with several people about the job ahead of an expected initial public offering next year.

Gibbs did not return emails seeking comment.

Ultimately, the decision for Gibbs may come down to loyalty or money. Gibbs has worked for Obama since his 2004 Senate campaign and left the White House in February with plans to work on the president's 2012 campaign. But Facebook is reportedly offering Gibbs a hefty salary as well as shares in a company about to go public.

The former White House spokesman had distanced himself from his former boss earlier this month when he told CNN that he was taking himself out of the running to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The move to Facebook would give Gibbs one of corporate America's few pulpits almost as large as the podium in the White House briefing room from which Gibbs spoke to the press for two years.

If Gibbs were to go to Facebook, he would be the most prominent name in a series of senior Democratic operatives from the Clinton and Obama administrations who have taken jobs with the company.

Facebook's current COO Sheryl Sandburg was formerly the chief of staff to Larry Summers, treasury secretary under President Clinton.

Chris Kelly, a lawyer who served as the company's Chief Privacy Officer for five years, left Facebook in March 2010 to run unsuccessfully for attorney general of California. Prior to joining Facebook, Kelly worked for Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign and in Clinton's Department of Education.

Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder, left the company to work for the Obama campaign. In 2008 he ran, the campaign's social networking site, for which the magazine Fast Company called him "The Kid Who Made Obama President."

Gibbs might not be the only Democrat vying for a position at Facebook., also citing anonymous sources, reported the company has also been interviewing former Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart for the same job. Politico reports that Lockhart has withdrawn his name for consideration by Facebook.

Robert Gibbs: From Obama to Zuckerberg?

White House spokesman might be one of the few jobs that could adequately prepare someone to head Facebook's communications, said Kevin Werbach, a Wharton Business School professor who studies tech companies and worked on the Obama campaign.

Facebook and the White House both have the same problem, Werbach said. They are institutions that preach transparency and openness, but which ultimately must closely guard their secrets.

"Frankly, Facebook has a hard time talking to the outside world," said Werbach. "Ironically, the company is all about social interaction, but they are socially awkward. They're dealing with hot-button issues like privacy, but have struggled with clearly communicating to the public."

Facebook, recently valued at $65 billion, is set to experience one of its largest growth spurts when it is expected to go public early next year.

The company wants someone familiar with communicating in a "pressure cooker," Werbach said.

"Is there a tougher communications job than being spokesman for the president? I don't think so," said Werbach. "If you're aspirations are to be one of most important companies in the world, you think about getting the best guy for that job."

Werbach said Gibbs' reported consideration of a Facebook job does not necessarily suggest a split with Obama.

"Press secretaries don't stay in the job all that long," said Werbach. "It's not surprising that he would leave to take a senior position at a private sector company. That doesn't indicate a rift with the president."

Facebook faces its own communications challenges. The company and its 26-year-old billionaire founder have a cloud hanging over them since the company's launch in 2004. Questions about the origins of idea for the site were augmented by last year's hit film the "Social Network."

The company has also come under increased scrutiny over its privacy policy and questions about whether it's providing confidential information about users to advertisers.

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