By Kara Swisher and Johana Bhuiyan
Jeff Jones, the president of Uber, is quitting the car-hailing company after less than a year. The move by the No. 2 exec, said sources, is directly related to the multiple controversies there, including explosive charges of sexism and sexual harassment.
(Update: Uber confirmed the departure, saying in a statement: “We want to thank Jeff for his six months at the company and wish him all the best.” And, in a note to staff, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said: “After we announced our intention to hire a COO, Jeff came to the tough decision that he doesn’t see his future at Uber. It is unfortunate that this was announced through the press but I thought it was important to send all of you an email before providing comment publicly.”)
(Update: Jones also confirmed the departure with a blistering assessment of the company. “It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride-sharing business,” he said in a statement to Recode.)
Jones, said sources, determined that this was not the situation he signed on for, especially after Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced a search for a new COO to help him right the very troubled ship.
That was not the reason for Jones’s departure, sources said, even though it meant that Kalanick was bringing in a new exec who could outrank him. Instead, these sources said, Jones determined that the situation at the company was more problematic than he realized.
Jones was certainly touted by Kalanick as a big hire when he arrived at Uber last fall from Target, where he was its well-regarded CMO. His job at Uber, among others, was to remake the company’s tainted image. He also was president of its main ride-sharing business.
Kalanick and Jones met just a year ago at the TED conference in Vancouver and there was much excitement that the company was attracting top-level corporate execs.
“Over the last six months, Ryan and I have become increasingly convinced that our rapidly growing marketing efforts needed to be far more integrated with our city operations,” Kalanick wrote in a post announcing Jones’s hire.
Jones spent much of the beginning of his tenure as the president of ride-sharing driving for Uber and meeting with drivers, after which he sent drivers an email about what he learned and what the company intends to do.
“It’s clear that there’s much we can be doing better. Listening is where we get our best ideas, because they come from you, the people using Uber every day,” he wrote.
But in February, Jones’s second public attempt to reach drivers went awry when drivers began flooding Jones’s Facebook page with angry comments and complaints during a question-and-answer session.
Jones’s decision to leave Uber likely won’t surprise people who worked with him at Target. “Jeff does not like conflict,” a source previously told Recode.
The situation at the company has deteriorated since then, obviously, after a blog post by a former female engineer chronicled a deeply dysfunctional management led by Kalanick that favored what board member Arianna Huffington called “brilliant jerks.”
Jerks indeed, as what has happened since then has made clear. Since the post, the company has fired its engineering head after revelations of a serious sexual harassment investigation at his previous employer, saw its head of product leave after questionable sexual behavior was uncovered at a company event and has initiated an investigation into the entire situation with a former Attorney General of the United States at the lead.
In addition, the now persistently apologetic Kalanick announced the search for a COO to help him do a better job.
Here is Kalanick’s full note to the staff:
I wanted to let you know that Jeff Jones has decided to resign from Uber.
Jeff joined Uber in October 2016 from being CMO at retailer Target. In 6 months, he made an important impact on the company—from his focus on being driver obsessed to delivering our first brand reputation study, which will help set our course in the coming months and year.
After we announced our intention to hire a COO, Jeff came to the tough decision that he doesn’t see his future at Uber. It is unfortunate that this was announced through the press but I thought it was important to send all of you an email before providing comment publicly.
Rachel, Pierre and Mac will continue to lead the Global Ops teams, reporting to me until we have signed a COO. Troy Stevenson, who leads CommOps, and Shalin Amin who leads brand design will report to Rachel Holt. Ab Gupta will report to Andrew MacDonald.
Here is Jones’s full statement:
I joined Uber because of its Mission, and the challenge to build global capabilities that would help the company mature and thrive long-term.
It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride sharing business.
There are thousands of amazing people at the company, and I truly wish everyone well.