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Uber president quits abruptly after string of company scandals

| Monday, March 20, 2017, 6:23 p.m.
Jeff Jones, president of the embattled ride-hailing company Uber seen here in a 2014 file photo, has resigned just six months after taking the job, the company confirmed Sunday, March 19, 2017.
Andy Kropa /Invision/AP
Jeff Jones, president of the embattled ride-hailing company Uber seen here in a 2014 file photo, has resigned just six months after taking the job, the company confirmed Sunday, March 19, 2017.

SAN FRANCISCO — In another sign of the turmoil sweeping Uber, the company's president of ride-sharing has quit after less than a year on the job, following a string of scandals at the startup and CEO Travis Kalanick's promise to hire a new second-in-command.

Kalanick on Sunday confirmed the departure of Jeff Jones in an email to employees obtained by The Mercury News.

“After we announced our intention to hire a COO, Jeff came to the tough decision that he doesn't see his future at Uber,” Kalanick wrote.

Jones, who joined Uber as president of ride-sharing in September after serving as chief marketing officer at Target, criticized the company in a statement to tech blog Recode.

“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,” Jones wrote.

Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

His sudden exit comes less than two weeks after Kalanick, scrambling to respond as accusations of sexual harassment, sexism and inappropriate managerial behavior shook the San Francisco-based ride-booking company, announced he would hire a chief operating officer to serve as his peer and partner.

Uber is losing one of its key executives following what has been a disastrous month for the startup worth nearly $70 billion. In February, a former Uber engineer accused the company of protecting a manager who solicited her for sex, which was followed by reports of managers sexually harassing and threatening employees. Then a video of Kalanick went viral, showing the CEO losing his temper while arguing with his Uber driver about fares. Not long after, Kalanick apologized and promised to get “leadership help,” later saying that help would come in the form of a new chief operating officer.

Uber earlier this month also announced it would dismantle a secretive program that allowed it to evade undercover regulators trying to conduct stings on the company. And it is facing a potentially devastating lawsuit by competitors at Google's Waymo seeking to stymie its self-driving car efforts.

In the wake of this tumult, Jones is just the latest executive to resign. Vice President of Engineering Amit Singhal was pushed out last month after the company learned he was accused of sexual harassment while previously working at Google. Vice President of Product Ed Baker resigned shortly after.

While at Uber, Jones oversaw the company's operations, marketing and customer support globally. He replaced Ryan Graves, a longtime Uber executive and the company's early CEO.

Kalanick touted the hire in August as a “big change” and said the move was a result of his realization that the company needed to put a bigger emphasis on marketing.

Jones appeared to have big plans for Uber as recently as last month, when he posted a note on Facebook promising to give drivers better support, clearer communication and an improved driver app.

“From all I heard and experienced, one thing is clear: we have a lot of work to do!” he wrote. “This update is just the beginning.”

Last month Jones also held a 30-minute live Q-and-A session on Facebook, which drew more than 600 questions, but few in-depth answers from Jones.

Kalanick had positive things to say about Jones in his email to staff.

“In 6 months, he made an important impact on the community,” Kalanick wrote, “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 years.”

But the Independent Drivers Guild, a quasi-union that represents Uber drivers in New York, was not so complimentary.

“It's frustrating that the sole executive charged with being driver-obsessed has left the company,” the group wrote in an emailed statement, “without making a single improvement to help drivers struggling to make a living.”

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