Sir Nick Clegg is to join a number of senior Facebook executives moving to London after four years in Silicon Valley, despite predicting an “economically insecure” UK would hamper 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, will split his time between homes in London and California after returning to the UK.
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 a massive 5,000 miles away”.
However, the decision is still likely to raise eyebrows given his history of outspoken warnings about the damage 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 talk to in the tech sector privately, they feel this sucking sound. Things that could have started here from Berlin.
“Investments that could be made here are being put on hold. New innovations that could have flourished here are beginning to flourish in Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Lisbon.”
Meta has been expanding in London despite Sir Nick’s earlier concerns, opening a new 620,000 sq ft office in Kings Cross earlier this year to house 4,000 staff.
News of his move 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. Marketing manager 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’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 be named Mark Zuckerberg’s number two – with the title of president of global affairs – when chief executive 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 relations with all governments globally.
He reports directly to chief executive Mr Zuckerberg and was awarded £10m of shares in Facebook’s parent company Meta, on top of his reported £2.7m salary, as part of his promotion.
Mr Zuckerberg has embraced a shift to remote working at Meta since the outbreak of the pandemic, but it is only this year that a number of executives have decided to move from the headquarters in Silicon Valley.
Sir Nick’s Californian mansion was worth around £7million when he and Mrs Durantez bought it in 2019. Forbes magazine described its location in Atherton, a town in California’s Silicon Valley, as “the most expensive postcode” in the US.
Ms Durantez posted on Instagram in 2019, amid a flurry of complaints about the US: “A week and a half in California and I already had to fill out 63 registration forms – and no, not even all of them were online! Next time some 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 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 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 revenue, down from $29 billion to $28.8 billion in the three months ending in June.