Dave Goldberg: Undisclosed Cause of Death Leads to Speculation, Concern

The 47-year-old SurveyMonkey CEO and husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg “passed away suddenly” while on vacation abroad with his family

Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg
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Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey and husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, died suddenly Friday while on vacation abroad with his family. He was 47.

While his brother confirmed his death, and multiple news outlets reported it, no one has disclosed the cause of his death. This has led to concern and speculation online about how he may have died, and how it might impact SurveyMonkey. Both his brother Robert and SurveyMonkey used the phrase “passed away suddenly last night,” in describing Goldberg’s death. Several media outlets in reporting on his passing said that a cause of death had not immediately been determined.

Over the weekend, as the cause of death remained unknown, some began to speculate and theorize. Columnist and entrepreneur Penelope Trunk penned a piece on her website where she posts that she believed it was suicide — supporting her theory primarily by the fact that no cause of death has been given at all, either specific or vague.

Goldberg’s brother wrote that Sandberg flew home on Saturday and has asked for privacy as she deals with her sudden loss.

Sandberg gained even more fame and notoriety after writing her book “Lean In,” which encourages women to fully embrace both their professional lives and their family lives equally, without sacrificing either. Some post that Sandberg and her husband gave up their right to privacy by holding such public positions like CEO and COO. Melayna Lokosky, writing on KillingMyCareer.com — a site that focuses on unethical business practices — asserts that it is unethical to not disclose the cause of death of a company’s CEO.

“Is SurveyMonkey in financial trouble?” Lokosky asks. “Were they being investigated? Was he being investigated? Did he take his own life related to work matters? Sudden death without the disclosure of the cause is worse than if the cause was just disclosed. If his death was finance related does it allow those on the inside an unfair advantage?”

In a footnote to the article, Lokosky said that the above questions “are not facts nor are they speculation based on fact about Mr. Goldberg or SurveyMonkey, they’re questions pulled from online.”

Goldberg’s friends and peers took to Facebook to express their condolences in the days since his passing, while also wondering how he had died. When Homebrew founder Hunter Walk posted about Goldberg’s death, Spark Capital VC Mo Koyfman responded, “Looks like heart attack, but they don’t know for sure.”

Several other prominent figures in Silicon Valley, like Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, Pexeso CEO Rastislav Turek and Freestyle co-founder Josh Felser, also chimed in with condolences and lingering questions about the cause of his death.

Questions that for now remain unanswered.