NEW YORK (AP) — Jay Carney, the top policy and communications executive at Amazon and one-time White House spokesman, has been named the head of policy at Airbnb, marking another high-profile departure for Amazon as it faces a shifting consumer landscape and heightened regulatory scrutiny.
Carney, who served as the press secretary for President Barack Obama, will join Airbnb's executive team and work with co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, the San Francisco-based home-sharing company said in a Friday blog post.
“Jay has worked at the highest levels of both government and technology, serving as a strategic counselor to the President, and at one of the largest tech companies in the world,” Chesky said in the post.
Carney will join Airbnb in September in Washington, D.C.
In an email sent Friday to the company's senior leadership team, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy thanked Carney for “his many significant accomplishments,” including helping the company “build a strong set of capabilities in Public Policy and PR."
Seattle-based Amazon has seen string of departures since Jassy, who previously ran the company's cloud-computing unit AWS, succeeded founder Jeff Bezos as CEO last summer. At least half of Jassy's tenure has been marked by headaches over the glut of warehouses the company acquired during the pandemic. He's pledged to bring profitability back to the company and is reported to have a more hands-on approach to the role.
This month, Dave Clark, the chief executive of Amazon’s consumer business who oversaw a mass expansion of Amazon’s logistics footprint, left the company after 23 years. Clark, who will join the logistics startup Flexport in September, was replaced by Doug Herrington, another executive who helped launch Amazon Fresh in 2017. Two of the company's most senior Black leaders, Alicia Boler Davis and David Bozeman, also left last month, leaving Amazon's elite senior leadership group, or “S-team," without any Black members.
Carney started with Amazon seven years ago and ran the company’s global corporate affairs organization, reporting directly to the CEO. He was White House press secretary from 2011 to 2014 after serving as director of communications for then Vice President Joe Biden. At Amazon, he oversaw policy and public relations, focusing on the company's relationship with lawmakers and the White House. In the role, he took a more combative posture, sometimes taking on members of the media and lawmakers critical of the company.
“Everything about my time at Amazon has exceeded my expectations, and I will forever be grateful to my colleagues in GCA, on Steam and across the businesses for their guidance, support and friendship over the years," Carney wrote to his team Friday in an email that was obtained by The Associated Press.
His departure comes amid increasing scrutiny on Amazon from Washington. Antitrust regulators at the Federal Trade Commission have been investigating Amazon’s business practices. The agency has reviewed Amazon's recently completed $8.5 billion buyout of Hollywood studio MGM and retains the discretion to challenge it.
On Thursday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who heads the Senate Judiciary antitrust panel, urged the FTC to investigate Amazon’s newly announced planned $3.9 billion acquisition of One Medical, raising concern over the retail giant’s past conduct and the deal’s potential implications for consumers’ health data.
Amazon’s e-commerce empire is estimated to control 50% to 70% of online market sales. Some independent merchants who sell products on Amazon.com have complained about the company’s practices, such as contract provisions said to prevent sellers from offering their products at lower prices or on better terms on any other online platform, including their own websites.
In its defense, Amazon has said that sellers set their own prices for the products they offer on its platform.
Landmark legislative proposals pending in Congress have raised the issue of a possible forced spinoff of Amazon’s private-label products that compete with vendors on the platform. The legislation has cleared key committees in both houses of Congress but has languished for months as prospects for votes by the full Senate or House have dimmed. For its part, Amazon has pushed back on the bill.
Jassy said in the email to the company's leadership the search for Carney's replacement will begin immediately.
Associated Press Business reporter Marcy Gordon contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.