Jay Carney, Amazon’s top policy executive, to join Airbnb

SEATTLE (AP) — Jay Carney, who was press secretary for former President Barack Obama, is leaving the top policy and public communications job at Amazon to join Airbnb.

Airbnb said in a blog post on Friday that Carney would become its global chief policy officer.

Mr. Carney, a former Time magazine journalist, joined Amazon in 2015 as its first senior vice president for global affairs, combining public relations and government lobbying as the company faced mounting scrutiny. Mr. Carney fiercely protected the image of Amazon and that of his boss, Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world.

Carney’s departure is one of several changes at the top of Amazon a year into the tenure of Andy Jassy, ​​who succeeded Bezos as CEO of the company last July. Mr. Jassy, ​​who previously created and ran Amazon’s cloud computing business, is known for his attention and interest in detail and has investigated parts of the company that are now under his control.

Dave Clark, the architect of Amazon’s logistics expansion, announced last month that he would be leaving before a successor could be named. John Felton, a transportation executive, replaced Clark as CEO of Amazon’s retail and operations business. Two of the company’s top black executives, who were Felton’s colleagues, also departed.

Mr. Jassy announced Mr. Carney’s departure in an email to his senior leadership team, commending Mr. Carney for “his many significant accomplishments on behalf of Amazon customers and employees, for helping us develop a strong set of of capacities in Public Policies and Public Relations. The New York Times obtained the email.

“Everything about my time at Amazon has exceeded my expectations,” Carney said in an email to his team on Friday, also obtained by The Times. Carney had no comment when contacted Thursday.

Amazon faces more regulatory threats from governments around the world now than at any time in its history. The Federal Trade Commission, led by Amazon critic Lina Khan, is conducting a wide-ranging investigation to determine whether the company’s practices violated antitrust law. Lawmakers may also vote this year on legislation that would prevent Amazon from prioritizing its own products, such as batteries and garbage bags, over those sold by competitors on its online marketplace.

Amazon lobbyists and public relations specialists have promoted the company as a flagship employer and a boon to the local economies where it operates. In 2018, the company announced a minimum wage of $15 an hour, earning praise from its frequent critic, Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont.

But Carney’s team got a black eye during Amazon’s search for a second headquarters, when in 2018 it underestimated the creeping backlash it would face by potentially building a major presence in New York. Amazon eventually changed course and chose another location.

Carney’s team also faced criticism after an official Amazon Twitter account dismissed a congressman’s concern last year that workers had to urinate in bottles while on the job. The company apologized.

More recently, Carney’s team mounted a vigorous response to antitrust legislation, which Amazon has said would make it harder to offer its signature fast shipping of its Prime subscription service. The company spent about $9.1 million on federal lobbying in 2015. Last year, it spent $19.3 billion.

Drew Herdener, who heads public relations under Carney, was promoted to senior vice president on Thursday, according to four people with knowledge of the internal announcement. The communications team grew from 10 people to “several hundred,” Herdener said in an interview last fall, adding that Amazon had hired 200 communications professionals in the previous year alone.

As the company searches for a new head of global affairs, Mr. Herdener will report directly to Mr. Jassy, ​​and the policy teams will report to David Zapolsky, the general counsel, according to the email.

Airbnb has been looking for its own head of policy and communications after Chris Lehane, a former assistant to Bill Clinton, left for a cryptocurrency venture capital fund earlier this year.

Erin Griffith contributed report.

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