Ben Silbermann, cofounder and longtime CEO of Pinterest, announced Tuesday he is stepping down as the leader of the social media site.
Starting Wednesday, Bill Ready, who formerly ran Google’s e-commerce business, will assume the CEO role, as Silbermann transitions into the newly created position of executive chairman.
Silbermann was responsible for much of Pinterest’s growth, helping to expand the site to 400 million monthly active users. During the pandemic, it saw a tremendous surge in interest. and its stock soared accordingly, nearly hitting $90 per share at its height. In the past year, though, the company’s stock has tumbled and closed Tuesday below $20. (Shares were up 4% in after-market trading.)
Inside the company, there have been problems. Last November, Pinterest settled a lawsuit in which it was accused of doing nothing to address “widespread claims of race and gender discrimination.” Silbermann, it said, surrounded himself “with yes-men, marginalizing women who dared to challenge Pinterest’s White, male leadership clique.”
The company also paid out $20 million to its former COO Françoise Brougher in 2020, after she alleged that she was paid less than male colleagues, wasn’t invited to important meetings, and was fired after speaking up about these issues.
At the same time, Pinterest has garnered praise under Silbermann’s watch for fighting misinformation about vaccines and climate change, offering vetted content instead of its usual algorithmic search results. That made the site stand out from other social media giants like Twitter and Facebook in recent years, as both struggled to control the spread of conspiracy theories and outright lies.
Pinterest has also been successful enough in what it does to attract imitators, including Google. The search giant, in 2020, rolled out Google Collections to let users put their search requests into, well, collections, which had a very Pinterest-like quality to them.
“I want to thank every employee—past and present—who helped build Pinterest,” Silbermann wrote in a LinkedIn post. “So much attention goes to founders and CEOs. But the truth is, everything worth building is built by a team. I feel so lucky that thousands of exceptional, wildly talented, creative and kind people joined our journey. Being part of the Pinterest team with all of you has always been the best part of the job.”
Ready’s appointment to the CEO role comes as Pinterest has increasingly focused on e-commerce in recent years. Earlier this year, the company acquired The Yes, an AI shopping platform, to accelerate its goals in the space.
Before his two-year tenure at Google, Ready was chief operating officer of PayPal and CEO of Venmo, all roles that will fit nicely with the company’s plans. Earlier this year, for instance, he helped launch a feature on Google that let people move from a store listing on a search-result page to the company’s checkout site in a single click.
“There’s no better time to join Pinterest,” said Ready in a statement. “I have long admired the brand and platform that Ben and the Pinterest team have created and everything the Company stands for. . . . Having built multiple businesses from zero and operated at the scale of billions of users, I have a deep appreciation for what it takes to scale a business like this to the next level. I look forward to . . . [capitalizing] on the many opportunities ahead and usher[ing] in Pinterest’s next chapter of growth and success.”
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