Uber loses two top execs one month after the company's rocky IPO

Uber's second in command and head of marketing are leaving the company as CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says he wants to be "more hands on."

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
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Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is shaking up the company's management.

James Martin/CNET

Uber confirmed two high-level executives are leaving the company -- the second in command, Chief Operating Officer Barney Harford, and its head of marketing, Rebecca Messina. The goal seems to be to consolidate Uber's teams and have their leaders report directly to CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

"This will allow me to be more hands on and help our leaders problem-solve in real time," Khosrowshahi wrote in an email to employees on Friday, which was seen by CNET.

The shakeup comes as Uber has experienced a rocky first month on the stock market. When the ride-hailing company issued its initial public offering at the beginning of May, its shares kicked off trading lower than expected, at $42. And it's been bumpy ever since, with shares still barely hitting Uber's $45 IPO price. 

"The timing of these executives departures so soon after the IPO will raise some eyebrows for investors and add more pressure on Dara," Wedbush analyst Ygal Arounian said in an investors note. But "we would rather management rip the Band-Aid off and make these changes now."

Harford joined Uber as its COO in December 2017. At the time, Khosrowshahi was working to straighten the company's course after months of scandals. The two executives had previously worked together for several years at the online travel site Expedia.

Things haven't necessarily been smooth for Harford at Uber. Last July, he was accused of making insensitive comments about women and people of color at the company. He remained COO and said he'd be working with a coach to "confront my blind spots."

In the email to employees Friday, Khosrowshahi said that because of his new hands-on approach, he and Harford agreed that the COO position "no longer makes sense."

"Barney is a talented businessperson, and I can't thank him enough for all of his contributions in helping get us to and through the IPO," Khosrowshahi wrote. "On a personal level, I've appreciated his strategic mind, analytical chops and unflagging passion and efforts for our mission."

Messina's position also appears to be collateral damage in Uber's reorganization. She was its first chief marketing officer and had been at the company for only nine months. In the email, Khosrowshahi said he's combining the marketing, communications and policy teams into one, which will now be led by Jill Hazelbaker, who was Uber's senior vice president of communications and public policy.

"Given this, Rebecca and I have agreed it makes sense for her to move on," Khosrowshahi wrote.

"There's never really a right time to announce departures or changes like this," Khosrowshahi added. "But with the IPO behind us, I felt this was a good moment to simplify our org and set us up for the future."

Originally published June 7, 2:48 p.m. PT.
Update, 4:06 p.m.: Includes additional background information.