Uber's communications chief quits after months of turmoil

Arianna Huffington: Sexual harassment 'not a systemic problem' at Uber
Arianna Huffington: Sexual harassment 'not a systemic problem' at Uber

Uber's communications chief is leaving the ride-hailing firm as it reels from a wave of public relations crises.

CEO Travis Kalanick announced the departure of Rachel Whetstone, Uber's head of policy and communications, in a memo to staff Tuesday. She's the latest in a series of top managers to exit the $68 billion startup.

Kalanick said the decision to step down after less than two years was Whetstone's. But he didn't explain why one of the company's longest-serving senior female executives was leaving. Uber declined to comment further.

Whetstone has certainly had her hands full recently.

Uber vp
Rachel Whetstone, far left, in 2012. She joined Uber from Google in June 2015.

Related: Lyft raises $600M amid Uber's crises

String of crises

Uber had to contend with a boycott campaign that went viral in January. Social media users urged customers to #DeleteUber after the company was perceived as breaking up a taxi strike of drivers protesting President Trump's travel ban.

Then in February, a former female engineer made public allegations of sexism and harassment at Uber. The company hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to carry out an investigation, which is supposed to close at the end of this month.

Related: Uber CEO: I need to 'grow up'

Kalanick added to the problems later in February after a video emerged of him arguing with an Uber driver. The CEO responded with a candid apology, saying he needs to "fundamentally change as a leader and grow up."

He had already taken heat from customers for his decision to serve on Trump's business advisory council. Kalanick later dropped out of the council.

Uber is also fighting a lawsuit against Alphabet's (GOOGL, Tech30) self driving car unit, Waymo, which is accusing Uber of stealing trade secrets.

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Uber CEO apologizes after abusive rant caught on video

High-profile exits

Whetstone follows other high-profile executives who have left Uber in recent months.

Jeff Jones, the second in command to Kalanick, said last month he was quitting after six months on the job because of concerns over the firm's management culture.

Related: Uber's No. 2 executive quits after 6 months

Other big departures include the head of Uber's maps business, the head of growth and product, and the head of engineering.

Whetstone isn't cutting ties to the startup entirely. Kalanick said he's "looking forward" to having her as an adviser and going hiking with her.

Deputy stepping up

In a statement provided by Uber, Whetstone said she "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."

She arrived at Uber in June 2015 after a decade of working in PR for Google in the U.K. and U.S.

Related: Uber searching for a COO after crises

The person stepping into the hot seat to replace Whetstone is her deputy, Jill Hazelbaker.

"The policy and communications function is incredibly strategic at Uber and I could not be more excited about partnering with Jill to help write the next chapter," Kalanick said.

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