Uber executives exit amid leadership shake-up

The company's chief operating officer and chief marketing officer are both leaving the ride-hailing company

Leadership shake-up at Uber sent its stock price back down below its debut price in extended trading on Friday. Reuters
Leadership shake-up at Uber sent its stock price back down below its debut price in extended trading on Friday. Reuters

Following a turbulent IPO, Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi is parting ways with two top executives in a major leadership shake-up. Barney Harford, the chief operating officer, and Rebecca Messina, the chief marketing officer, are both leaving the company, Uber said, and the position of COO is being eliminated.

In an email Friday to employees, Mr Khosrowshahi wrote that he would be getting "more involved in day-to-day operations" and that two of Uber's biggest businesses, Rides and Eats, would begin reporting directly to him.

“Over the years, I’ve learned that at every critical milestone, it’s important to step back and think about how best to organise for the future. Given that we’re a month past the IPO, now is one of those times,” he said.

Marketing is so important to our business, and our brand continues to be challenged.

Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber

Mr Harford, the exiting COO, has been shielded from the public spotlight after he was the subject of an internal review over what some employees described as racially insensitive remarks by the operating chief last year, Bloomberg reported. The investigation was closed last year and found no evidence of discrimination, the company said. Behind the scenes, Mr Harford led much of Uber’s business, though he remained a divisive figure.

Some Uber executives, particularly female leaders, bristled at working with Mr Harford, who had a brusque management style, people familiar with the matter said. Rachel Holt, an influential executive, was among those who had issues with Mr Harford’s leadership, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private matters. Meghan Joyce, a senior leader in the ride-hailing group under Mr Harford, left Uber earlier this year. Andrew Macdonald, who had long operated with a high degree of independence, and who has been tapped to help oversee operations, regularly talked directly with Mr Khosrowshahi instead of Mr Harford, his immediate boss.

Mr Holt declined to comment. Mr Harford, Ms Joyce and Mr Macdonald did not respond to requests for comment from Bloomberg.

In a letter to Uber staff on Friday, Mr Harford thanked employees and outlined a few of the company’s signature accomplishments. "While I will greatly miss working with this incredible team on a day-to-day basis," he wrote, "I’m also looking forward to being in Seattle a bit more, where my wife and two young kids are based."

Ms Messina’s tenure at Uber lasted just nine months. She had climbed the ranks at Coca-Cola and at Uber, and was designated one of Mr Khosrowshahi’s top executive recruits. Part of the reason for the change, Mr Khosrowshahi wrote to staff, is that “marketing is so important to our business, and our brand continues to be challenged”, according to Reuters.

Mr Khosrowshahi said he will now oversee the company’s core business, after spending much of the past two years travelling the world, meeting with government leaders and pitching prospective investors ahead of what became the biggest initial public offering on a US exchange in five years. He also promoted two long-time Uber executives to help fill the void.

Mr Macdonald, who will lead operations, started at Uber in 2012 as a general manager in Toronto. Jill Hazelbaker, who runs policy and communications, will add the marketing department to her portfolio. Both were hired by Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick and became trusted allies of Mr Khosrowshahi.

Uber has under-performed in its first month as a public company, as investors question its ability to someday turn a profit. In its first quarterly financial report last week, Uber posted a $1.01 billion loss. The stock closed Friday below the IPO price of $45 a share. Shares fell as much as 2.29 per cent in extended trading.

Updated: June 8, 2019 12:31 PM


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