“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 Washington Post.
Khosrowshahi said in the email that he was assuming command of Uber’s main ride-hailing 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 Khosrowshahi, who later added his longtime 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. The stock traded below its initial price of $45 until this week.
During Harford’s less-than-two-year tenure, he made some employees uncomfortable with what they described as offhand remarks that could be seen as culturally insensitive, said people close to the company who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk publicly. That included commenting on people’s hairstyles or style of dress, the people said.
Uber launched an investigation into Harford’s behavior last summer with the help of outside counsel, Khosrowshahi told employees at a companywide 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 members after reports about his behavior surfaced last summer, Harford said he was undergoing sensitivity training.
Uber spokesman Noah Edwardsen said 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 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 last fall 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 public affairs. Khosrowshahi wrote that on the marketing side, the company needed to provide a “consistent, unified narrative to consumers, partners, the press and policymakers.”