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Uber CEO Takes More Control by Absorbing the COO’s Role

June 7, 2019, 10:23 PM UTC

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is taking greater charge of the ride-hailing company. His first order of business? A management shakeup.

The CEO sent an email to employees on Friday announcing the departure of Chief Operating Officer Barney Harford and Chief Marketing Officer Rebecca Messina. The news comes one month after the company went public and one week after it posted anticlimactic first-quarter earnings. The milestones led Khosrowshahi to reorganize the leadership team in preparation for the future, he wrote in the email.

And that means giving himself a bigger role in the company’s operations.

“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,” Khosrowshahi’s email reads. “Given this, Barney and I have agreed that the COO role no longer makes sense.”

Khosrowshahi said absorbing the COO role allows him to be more “hands on” and help Uber solve problems “in real time” while also keeping an eye on the company’s overall vision.

But he’ll have his hands full. Uber is currently grappling with thousands of driver complaints about dwindling wages, a bottom line that’s bleeding up to a billion dollars every quarter, and challenging regulatory hurdles across the world.

Khosrowshahi is hoping to combat some of those problems by communicating a “consistent, unified narrative” to riders, partners, the press, and policy makers by combining the marketing, communications, and policy teams.

The change will dissolve the CMO role, held for the last nine months by Messina, who developed the company’s first global marketing organization. Jill Hazelbaker, who currently oversees policy and communications, will lead the combined teams.

“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’s email said.

The move is a clear message that Khosrowshahi wants more control, said Dan Ives, analyst at Wedbush. Investors are shocked by the news, and the departures will likely add more pressure to Khosrowshahi and Uber, Ives said. But it’s better the company endure a shakeup sooner than later, he added.

“We would rather management rip the Band-Aid off and make these changes now in the executive suite with minimal disruption expected,” he wrote in a note Friday.

As part of the announcement, Uber promoted Andrew Macdonald to senior vice president of global rides. Harford, the former Orbitz CEO who joined Uber in 2017, will remain on the team until July 1 to help with the transition.