Executive Who Steered Uber Through Scandals Joins Exodus

Executive Who Steered Uber Through Scandals Joins Exodus

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Rachel Whetstone, who is leaving her post as head of Uber’s policy and communications, in 2012.

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Toru Yamanaka/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO — Uber has lost a string of top managers in recent months as the ride-hailing company has dealt with scandals over its workplace culture and its executives’ behavior. That exodus is continuing with the exit of Rachel Whetstone, the company’s head of policy and communications.

In an internal email to employees on Tuesday, Uber’s chief executive, Travis Kalanick, said Ms. Whetstone was leaving amicably and of her own volition. “Since joining in 2015, Rachel has blown us all away with her ability to get stuff done,” Mr. Kalanick wrote.

In a statement, Ms. Whetstone said, “I joined Uber because I love the product — and that love is as strong today as it was when I booked my very first ride six years ago.”

But internally, Mr. Kalanick and Ms. Whetstone had a complicated relationship, according to three current and former employees who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters. Mr. Kalanick and Ms. Whetstone are intense personalities and occasionally clashed over how to handle external communications, especially in times of crisis, these people said.

Over the past few months, Ms. Whetstone has steered Uber through several firestorms. A grass-roots campaign urged people to delete the Uber app after the company was erroneously perceived to have capitalized on President Trump’s executive order to bar immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries. In addition, a former employee, in a public blog post, detailed a history of harassment at the hands of an Uber manager, prompting an internal investigation and questions over the company’s culture.

Apart from Ms. Whetstone, other Uber executives have recently quit. Last month, Jeff Jones, a former Target executive, left Uber because of what he characterized as disagreements with leadership. Brian McClendon, a top engineering executive working on Uber’s mapping initiatives, also departed the company to return to his home state, Kansas, where he plans to explore politics.

Ed Baker, from Uber’s growth and product team, exited in February, and Amit Singhal, a top engineering executive said to have failed to disclose a sexual harassment complaint against him at his former workplace, was asked to resign late that month.

Ms. Whetstone, who led communications at Google for a decade before joining Uber in 2015, has not detailed her next move. In an email to colleagues, she said she was looking forward to time off with her family.

Recode, a technology news site, earlier reported Ms. Whetstone’s departure.

Jill Hazelbaker, a former political operative for Senator John McCain and a longtime colleague of Ms. Whetstone’s at Google and Uber, will step into Ms. Whetstone’s global public policy and communications role. Ms. Hazelbaker joined Uber in 2015 from Snapchat.

“I am incredibly proud of the team that we’ve built — and that just as when I left Google, a strong and brilliant woman will be taking my place,” Ms. Whetstone said in a statement.

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