The co-CEO of luggage company Away, Steph Korey, is stepping down by the end of 2020, co-founder Jen Rubio and co-CEO Stuart Haselden told employees Thursday. The announcement follows a string of stories on Korey's personal Instagram account that criticized the media, as reported by The Verge. Away confirmed that Korey will be handing over CEO duties to Haselden later this year but denied that the move is a result of "any social media activity this week." The decision had already been made, Away said.
"Steph's posts do not reflect or affect our current company priorities and the deep work we're doing around diversity, equity and inclusion," Haselden and Rubio told Away staff in a letter. "We hear you that these posts, coming from a co-CEO, distract from our focus as a company, and we are sorry that this has caused pain for some of our employees and placed unnecessary negativity and pressure on our community-facing teams. We especially recognize the added emotional burden on our Black, POC and LGBTQIA+ teammates."
Korey had stepped down as CEO last year following reports of complaints about how she managed employees. But she returned as co-CEO in January, deleting the apology she'd made in the previous month, according to The Verge.
Purported screenshots of her Instagram stories this week showed an assertion that several digital media outlets "have nearly non-existent editorial standards" and that "misrepresentation *is* the business model of some outlets." Korey didn't respond to a request to confirm the validity of the screenshots and to comment.
According to The Verge, employees took issue with her speaking out on the topic of misrepresentation in the media rather than addressing Pride or Black Lives Matter. "Why is this the moment she chose to be present and speak up?" they asked in an anonymous letter to Rubio and Haselden. "It's becoming very clear that it's because Steph Korey values her own reputation over the wellbeing of the company and her employees."
Away confirmed both the anonymous letter from employees and the letter from Haselden and Rubio. When Korey returns from maternity leave in August, Haselden will become sole CEO of the company, the letter from Haselden and Rubio says. It also notes that Korey has since changed her Twitter and Instagram profiles to state that her views are her own.
The Away news comes as Vice reported Thursday on a leaked audio file featuring Balaji Srinivasan and other VC elites discussing the media on invite-only audio app Clubhouse on Wednesday night. The published recording contains discussion of how tech journalists cover VCs. More specifically, it concerns New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz, who earlier in the week criticized Korey's Instagram stories and was in turn criticized by Srinivasan. The debate spilled onto Twitter on Wednesday night, drawing tech journalists and Silicon Valley figures into the public spat.
When asked for comment, Srinivasan responded with a link to this tweet, in which he referred to a "possibly illegal recording" of him and others "standing up for founders who are harassed by NYT journalists for clicks." Choire Sicha, Styles editor at The Times, said Lorenz is "an excellent reporter doing incredibly relevant reporting for this moment. She, and all reporters, should be able to do their jobs without facing harassment."
Andreessen Horowitz and Clubhouse founders Paul Davison and Rohan Seth didn't respond to requests for comment.