SEATTLE — Jay Carney, who served as press secretary to former President Barack Obama, is leaving Amazon’s top policy and public communications position to join Airbnb.
Airbnb said in a blog post Friday that Mr. Carney would become its global head of policy and communications.
mr. Carney, a former journalist at Time magazine, joined Amazon in 2015 as the first senior vice president of global affairs, combining public relations and government lobbying as the company faced mounting criticism. Mr. Carney fiercely protected the image of Amazon and that of its boss, Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world.
Mr. Carney’s departure is one of many changes on top of Amazon one year into Andy Jassy’s tenurewho succeeded Mr Bezos as chief executive of the company last July. Mr. Jassy, who previously built and led Amazon’s cloud computing business, is known for his attention and interest in details and has delved into areas of the company newly under his control.
Dave Clark, the architect of Amazon’s logistics expansion, announced last month that he left before a successor was appointed. John Felton, a transportation manager, replaced Mr. Clark as the chief executive of Amazon’s retail and operations operations. Two of the companies most senior Black executiveswho were Mr Felton’s colleagues, also left.
Mr. Jassy announced Mr. Carney’s departure in an email to his senior management team, praising Mr. Carney for “his many significant achievements on behalf of Amazon’s customers and employees, as he has helped us build a strong set of capabilities.” in the areas of public policy and PR. The New York Times received the email.
“Everything about my time at Amazon has exceeded my expectations,” Mr. Carney said in an email to his team on Friday, which was also obtained by The Times. Mr Carney did not comment when contacted on Thursday.
Amazon now faces more regulatory threats from governments around the world than at any time in its history. The Federal Trade Commission, led by an Amazon critic, Lina Khan, is conducting an extensive investigation into whether the company’s practices violate antitrust laws. Lawmakers could 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 in its online marketplace.
Amazon’s public relations specialists and lobbyists have promoted the company as a signature employer and a boon to the local economies where it operates. In 2018, the company announced a minimum wage of $15 an hour, with praise from its frequent critic, Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont.
But the team of Mr. Carney got a black eye during Amazon’s search for a second headquarters when, in 2018, it underestimated the progressive backlash it would face in potentially building a large presence in New York. Amazon eventually reversed course and chose a different location.
The team of mr. Carney was also criticized after an official Amazon Twitter account last year dismissed a congressman’s concern that workers had to pee in bottles on the job. Company apologized.
More recently, Mr. Carney’s team has reacted strongly to antitrust laws, which Amazon says would make it difficult to offer the signature fast shipping of its Prime subscription service. The company spent approximately $9.1 million on federal lobbying in 2015. Last year it spent $19.3 million.
Drew Herdener, who heads public relations under Mr. Carney, was promoted to senior vice president on Thursday, according to four people who were aware of the internal announcement. The communications team has grown from 10 people to “several hundreds,” Mr. Herdener said in a statement interview last fall, adding that Amazon had hired 200 communications professionals in the previous year alone.
While the company is seeking a new head of Global Affairs, Mr. Herdener will report directly to Mr. Jassy, and the policy teams will report to David Zapolsky, its general counsel, according to the email.
Airbnb was looking for its own head of policy and communications after Chris Lehane, a former Bill Clinton aide, left for a cryptocurrency venture capital fund earlier this year.
Erin Griffith reporting contributed.