Uber Names Ex-Orbitz CEO Barney Harford Its First-Ever COO

Uber on Wednesday named the first Chief Operating Officer in its history, having given that honor to former Orbitz CEO Barney Harford. The San Francisco, California-based company started its search for a COO in late spring but suspended its efforts following the resignation of Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick who was essentially ousted from what's still believed to be the world's most valuable startup by several investors amid a series of controversies ranging from clashes with various regulators to accusations of a predatory corporate culture. The COO search resumed immediately after Dara Khosrowshahi took over the startup in late summer, with the company's new chief personally vetting top candidates for the position, sources previously said.

Mr. Harford will start his work at Uber on January 2nd and is already familiar with the ride-hailing service provider who originally hired him as an advisor in October. While the specifics of his previous role remain unclear, it appears to have been a mutually evaluatory one, with Uber's top management being given the opportunity to witness Mr. Harford's methods firsthand while the industry veteran was also provided with enough time to inspect the company's operations and decide whether he wants to join its ranks on a more permanent and better defined basis. The new COO already drafted some ideas in regards to how Uber would be able to operate more efficiently going forward but no concrete details on the matter have yet been disclosed by the company. Mr. Harford is understood to be CEO's personal pick as he and Mr. Khosrowshahi already have a working history at Expedia which Uber's current chief headed when it purchased Orbitz.

The British national who arrived to the United States in 1999 will remain on the boards of United Airlines and RealSelf which he chairs. His appointment is the latest step in Mr. Khosrowshahi's effort to repair Uber's heavily damaged image and allow the company to move away from the controversies that have been surrounding it in recent years, with the endeavor itself starting from the top. Uber's short-term goals include alleviating its strained relations with regulators, controlling its costs, continuing the growth of its key business metrics such as gross bookings, and ultimately preparing for a healthy IPO in 2019.

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