Less than a year after Uber made headlines by hiring David Plouffe as its head of communications, the former President Obama advisor has been replaced by a new hire from Google.
Rachel Whetstone is joining the ride-sharing startup as the senior vice president of policy and communications after leaving a similar role leading the public policy and communications unit at Google (GOOG), Uber confirmed Wednesday. (The move was first reported by Re/code.) Plouffe, who joined Uber in August, will now serve as chief advisor to the company and CEO Travis Kalanick while also joining the startup’s board as its seventh member.
When Uber hired Plouffe as its SVP of policy and strategy last year, Kalanick called the former presidential strategist “a proven field general” who could help the company take on “the Big Taxi cartel.” He was tasked with softening the upstart’s combative image and to help make peace with city governments and regulators.
Whetstone’s arrival is the latest hint that Uber could be gearing up for a potential IPO, considering that private companies with designs on an initial offering often bring in communications executives with public company experience. In March, Brent Callinicos stepped down as Uber’s CFO in a move sparking speculation that the company would find a replacement with more Wall Street experience to take Uber public.
Whetstone, who joined Google’s European team in 2005 before eventually moving to the U.S., had been kept busy recently by Google’s ongoing battle with European regulators who hit the online search giant with antitrust charges last month. Now, with Uber, Whetstone’s focus will likely shift to the company’s ongoing legal and regulatory issues as well as the potential IPO. Uber is also reportedly in talks to raise about $1.5 billion in its latest round of funding, which would pump up the company’s valuation to roughly $50 billion.
Wednesday’s news also represents Uber’s latest pick-up of a former Google executive. Last year, Uber hired Tom Fallows, the former head of same-day delivery service Google Express. Meanwhile, Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, also sits on the Uber board, where he will now be joined by Plouffe.
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