Sir Nick Clegg is to join a string of senior Facebook executives moving to London after four years in Silicon Valley, despite predicting that an “economically insecure” Britain would hemorrhage tech businesses 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, is to divide his time between homes in London and California after his return to Britain.
Sir Nick – who left the UK to work for Facebook’s billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg after losing his seat as an MP – has made no secret of his longing to leave California, saying last year that his “heart belongs massively 5,000 miles away”.
However, the decision is nonetheless likely to raise eyebrows given his history of outspoken warnings about the damage that Brexit would do to UK plc – particularly in the industry in which he is now employed.
In a 2017 interview, he said: “Pretty much everyone I speak to in the tech sector privately, they feel this sucking sound. Things that could have started here starting in Berlin.
“Investments that could be made here being put on ice. New innovations that could have flourished here are starting to flourish in Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Lisbon.”
Meta has been expanding in London despite Sir Nick’s previous concerns, opening a new 620,000 sq ft office in Kings Cross earlier this year to house 4,000 staff.
News of his relocation comes a day after it emerged Instagram chief Adam Mosseri is moving to London as the app battles 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 chosen to move back for personal reasons, including being closer to his elderly parents.
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, Sir Nick’s lawyer wife, was also reluctant to leave the capital when they went to California, telling the Evening Standard in 2019: “It is never a good time to leave London.”
Sir Nick joined Facebook in 2018 as head of global affairs and rose through the ranks to be appointed Mark Zuckerberg’s number two – with the title of president of global affairs – when chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg stepped down earlier this year.
The former Liberal Democrat leader was promoted six months ago, with his new role giving him responsibility for the company’s dealings with all governments globally.
He reports directly to chief executive Mr Zuckerberg and was awarded £10m of shares in Facebook parent company Meta, on top of his reported salary of £2.7m, as part of his promotion.
Mr Zuckerberg has embraced a shift to remote working at Meta since the onset of the pandemic, but it is only this year that a string of executives have decided to move from its headquarters in Silicon Valley.
Sir Nick’s Californian mansion was worth around £7m when he and Ms Durantez purchased it in 2019. Forbes magazine described its location in Atherton, a town 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: “One week and a half in California and I already had to fill in 63 registration forms – and no, not even all of them were online! Next time any Brexiteers complain about European bureaucracy, just point them to the US.”
The former MP for Sheffield Hallam led Facebook’s response to the invasion of Ukraine, banning Russian propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik from the social networking website. Sir Nick also relaxed Facebook’s rules on violence to prevent moderators deleting posts by Ukrainians calling for armed resistance against the Russian invaders.
Russia’s response was to ban Facebook and Instagram from operating within its borders, costing Meta an estimated $1.7bn (£1.4bn) in lost revenue.
Meta’s latest financial results recorded its first ever drop in revenues, down from $29bn to $28.8bn in the three months ending in June.