Facebook may hire Obama former press secretary Robert Gibbs to manage communications

By Andrew Ross Sorkin
The New York Times

Facebook is in talks to hire Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s former White House press secretary, for a senior role in helping to manage the company’s communications, people briefed on the negotiations said.

Facebook is seeking out Mr. Gibbs ahead of an initial public offering planned for early 2012, these people said.

robert-gibbs
Robert Gibbs left the White House
in February after two years on the job
Photo By Olivier Douliery

Robert Gibbs left the White House in February after two years on the job.The talks are still at an early stage and no formal offer has been made, these people said, warning that it remained possible the discussions could collapse.

Mr. Gibbs, who left the White House in February after two years on the job, had been planning to help establish President Obama’s re-election campaign before taking a private sector job, these people said.

Facebook, however, is pressing Mr. Gibbs to consider the job more quickly, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the conversations were supposed to remain confidential.

A job for Mr. Gibbs at Facebook could be worth millions of dollars. While details of his potential compensation package have yet to be discussed, people briefed on the talks said that he would receive a cash salary as well as shares ahead of the initial offering. Facebook is being valued by some investors at more than $60 billion and could be the largest offering in history.

In recent weeks, Mr. Gibbs has consulted several of his former White House colleagues about whether he should take the job, including David Axelrod, President Obama’s former senior adviser who is helping to head a re-election team, these people said.

Mr. Gibbs and a spokesman for Facebook declined to comment.

Facebook is increasingly in the public eye and is looking to build its communications team ahead of its planned I.P.O.

The attention the company received from the movie “The Social Network” and investor interest have put increasing pressure on it communicate better with the public about its products and its policies.

The company has also become a focus of Washington as lawmakers and regulators grapple with online privacy issues and Internet security. Facebook has already stepped up its lobbying efforts in Washington, which have included discussions with the Federal Trade Commission, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Facebook had a minor public relations headache when a planned offering of private stock by Goldman Sachs to investors in the United States had to be shelved because of worries the offering would not comply with Securities and Exchange Commission rules.

Goldman completed the offering instead with foreign investors.

While Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder, often acts as the public face of the company, Mr. Gibbs may be able to help communicate the company’s message in the media, to investors and policy makers.

The job is based at Facebook’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., these people said. Mr. Gibbs would be brought in to work under Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president for global communications, marketing and public policy. Mr. Schrage came to Facebook in 2008 from Google.

Last week, Mr. Schrage hired Caryn Marooney, the co-founder of OutCast Agency, a large public relations agency in San Francisco, to become the director of technology communications at Facebook.

Mr. Gibbs has recently held talks with a number of other companies, people briefed on those conversations said. His name has also been floated as a possible chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Politico reported.

See Related: Facebook – Mark Zuckerberg

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