After Recode broke the story that former target CMO Jeff Jones was quitting after less than six months as Uber president, CEO Travis Kalanick yesterday intimated in an email to employees that it was because he’d recently announced a search for a COO who would outrank Jones. Jones, meanwhile, issued a “blistering” statement to Recode, its Kara Swisher and Johana Bhuiyan report, saying: “It is now clear … that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber.”
Jones was responsible for operations, marketing and customer support worldwide.
“Mr. Jones was viewed by many as the so-called adult in the room — an executive with experience as a leader at a public company that had undergone a period of intense crisis. He oversaw Target’s marketing division during and after the fallout of a major company data breach in 2013,” writes Mike Isaacs for the New York Times.
“In announcing Jones’ hiring in August, Kalanick said the two had met at a technology-industry conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. ‘Within minutes we were debating how Uber could improve its reputation,’ Kalanick said,” Dominic Fracassa reports for SFGate.
The hiring of Jones was “widely seen as a way for the firm to soften its image as a brash, hyperaggressive company,” Fracassa writes.
“Mr. Jones has generally maintained a low public profile since joining Uber, but his tenure had appeared bumpy at times. In an ill-fated attempt to respond to driver concerns in February, he held a question-and-answer session on Facebook but addressed only about a dozen of hundreds of questions and signed off after about 30 minutes, despite promising a full hour,” reports Greg Bensinger for the Wall Street Journal.
A source had previously told Recode that Jones “does not like conflict,” Swisher and Bhuiyan report.
“There are thousands of amazing people at the company and I truly wish everyone well,” Jones also said in his statement to Recode yesterday. At least some of the negative experiences he obliquely references have been aired very publicly over the terrible, horrible no good, very bad couple of months for Uber:
Brian McClendon, vice president of maps and business platform, is also departing Uber, the NYT’s Isaacs reports, although “amicably.” The former Google engineer wants to get involved in politics in Kansas, where he’s from, and will remain an advisor to Uber, where he has been for two years.
In related news, the New York Times’ Brian X. Chen writes that he looked forward to this year’s SXSW with trepidation because Uber and Lyft had pulled out of Austin last May after it voted to tighten regulations on ride-sharing services. But for the most part, he found his experience with smaller ride-sharing apps, Fasten and RideAustin, to be perfectly adequate.
Citing other attendees who felt the same way, Chen takes issue with a BuzzFeed story that “proclaimed” the smaller services “flunked an important test” because there were glitches here and there (notably on a rainy Saturday night). Overall, Chen maintains, they “managed to move hundreds of thousands of people around and choke only occasionally.”
Most telling, perhaps, is a supportive quote Chen cites from Sam Grobart, an executive editor for CNN and a former colleague of his at the Times. “I’m as brand loyal to a ride service as I am to a gas station chain — which is to say not at all.”