Uber’s operating, marketing chiefs depart in leadership shake-up

After a tumultuous stock debut, Uber Technologies Inc. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is parting ways with two top lieutenants in a major leadership overhaul. Barney Harford, the COO, and Rebecca Messina, the chief marketing officer, are both leaving the company, Uber said.

Uber had largely shielded Harford 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. The investigation was closed last year and found no evidence of discrimination, the company said. Behind the scenes, Harford led much of Uber’s business, though he remained a divisive figure.

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

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 percent in extended trading after Bloomberg reported the executive departures.

“Over the years, I’ve learned that at every critical milestone, it’s important to step back and think about how best to organize for the future. Given that we’re a month past the IPO, now is one of those times,” Khosrowshahi wrote in an email Friday to employees. “I now have the ability to be even more involved in the day-to-day operations of our biggest businesses, the core platform of Rides and Eats, and have decided they should report directly to me.”

Uber’s board selected Khosrowshahi, then the CEO of Expedia Group Inc., to lead Uber after a string of embarrassing public scandals in 2017. Internal investigations that year led to the dismissal of more than 20 employees. Harford, who had led travel site Orbitz Worldwide Inc., joined Khosrowshahi to help prep Uber for the IPO.

The two executives who will take over some responsibilities from the outgoing chiefs helped Uber navigate through the period of turmoil. Andrew Macdonald, who started at Uber in 2012 as a general manager in Toronto, will lead operations. 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 Khosrowshahi.

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