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Uber's Second-in-Command, Chief Marketing Officer Depart in Post-IPO Shakeup

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he was assuming command of Uber's core business.

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Uber's Second-in-Command, Chief Marketing Officer Depart in Post-IPO Shakeup

The high-profile consolidation of executive roles comes after Uber's IPO listing

Highlights
  • Uber CEO says it was a good time to simplify the organisation
  • Khosrowshahi will now head the main ride-sharing business
  • The food-delivery business will also fall under his command

Uber's second-in-command and its chief marketing officer will be leaving the company, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced Friday, a major executive shakeup following the company's initial public offering last month.

Khosrowshahi told employees that Barney Harford, chief operating officer, and Rebecca Messina, chief marketing officer, will be departing the company as he consolidates executive roles following the high-profile stock market listing.

"There's never really a right time to announce departures or changes like this, but with the IPO behind us, I felt this was a good moment to simplify our org and set us up for the future," Khosrowshahi said in an email obtained by the Post.

Khosrowshahi said in the email he was assuming command of Uber's core business, helming the main ridesharing business as well as its food delivery branch, with top executives reporting directly to him. That eliminates Uber's chief operating officer role.

Despite a years-long effort to stabilize the company, the turmoil at the ride-hailing giant is far from over. Uber has been working to reform its image after female employees accused the company of failing to address allegations of sexual harassment and of fostering a "tech bro" atmosphere. Investors pushed out Uber's longtime chief executive in 2017, bringing in as CEO Khosrowshahi, who later added his long-time associate, Harford.

But the new leadership team has hit hurdles, including when the company went public last month at the low range of its stock price valued at $82 billion (roughly Rs. 5,68,998 crores). The stock traded below its initial price of $45 (roughly Rs. 3,100) until this week.

During Harford's less than two-year tenure, he had made some employees uncomfortable with what they described as offhand remarks that could be seen as culturally insensitive, according to people close to the company who requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly. That included commenting on people's hairstyles or style of dress, the people said.

Uber launched an investigation into Harford's behaviour last summer with the help of outside counsel, Khosrowshahi told employees at a company-wide meeting at the time. He was responding to a question about why Uber appeared to handle Harford's case differently than that of a former human resources executive who was also accused of making racially insensitive comments. Khosrowshahi in the meeting called Harford "a friend," saying he would recuse himself from the investigation as a result.

In a letter of contrition to staff after reports about his behaviour surfaced last summer, Harford said he was undergoing sensitivity training.

Uber spokesman Noah Edwardsen said that Harford's departure was unrelated to the investigation, which has since concluded.

Khosrowshahi and Harford have worked together for years, including at Expedia, where Khosrowshahi was CEO. Some employees more recently expressed dismay at Harford's 2018 compensation, which at $47.6 million (roughly Rs. 330 crores) outpaced even Khosrowshahi's.

Messina, a former executive with Coca-Cola and liquor maker Beam Suntory, served a short stint at Uber. She was hired in October as its first global marketing chief. Under her watch, the company has sought to revamp its tattered image, including through ads that emphasize Uber's strides in changing its workplace culture and safety improvements.

Jill Hazelbaker, will lead a newly combined team of marketing communications and policy as senior vice president of marketing and affairs. Khosrowshahi wrote that on the marketing side, the company needed to provide a "consistent, unified narrative to consumers, partners, the press and policymakers."

Messina was brought on as chief marketing officer in September. Harford had been with the company for nearly two years.

© The Washington Post 2019

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