Rachel Whetstone, Uber’s head of communications and policy, is leaving after two years with the ride-sharing company.
In an internal email obtained by Recode, which first reported the sudden resignation Tuesday, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said Whetstone “has decided to leave Uber.” Kalanick also described her as a “force of nature” who “ has blown us all away with her ability to get stuff done.”
Whetstone’s resignation makes it eight high-profile departures from Uber this year. Earlier this month, the company announced that its president of ride sharing Jeff Jones resigned after just six months with the company. The VP of business and maps, Brian McClendon, announced his plans to leave at the end of March, following five other the departures by executives across departments including AI, engineering, and self-driving.
But unlike the other seven exits, Whetstone’s hobbles the company’s ability to respond effectively to its seemingly endless stream of scandals (read: PR disasters). Whetstone was at the helm when consumer and driver backlash against the company’s lukewarm response to President Donald Trump’s immigration ban in January. That was followed by weeks of news coverage of the company’s sexual harassment scandal involving now-departed engineering VP Amit Singhal, which was set off by former employee Susan Fowler’s chilling account of Uber’s culture of sexual harassment; and Kalanick’s former girlfriend bearing witness to the company’s sexist culture.
As of last week, Uber is locked in a legal battle with Google regarding the two companies’ competing self-driving car technology. (Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski, who used to work in Google’s parent company Alphabet’s Waymo division and is accused of stealing sensitive information, is at the center of the controversy.)
Whetstone, presumably, was the point person handling all of these PR disasters at once, helping Kalanick craft statements and urging him to address issues head on when necessary.
Her absence appears to make it at least a little harder for the company to fend off longstanding problems and controversies, including its ongoing labor fight with drivers. Uber settled a lawsuit in January that claimed the company misled drivers on matters of earning potential and the company’s auto financing program.
The Washington Post released a poignant piece last week showcasing how that program pushed a pregnant Washington, D.C. woman toward financial ruin.