PRIME TIME

Airbnb has hired the head of Amazon Prime to run its home-sharing business

Airbnb said today (March 6) that it has hired Greg Greeley, former vice president of Amazon Prime, to oversee its core business of peer-to-peer home rentals.

The privately held company, valued at $31 billion, had been seeking an executive to lead the homes division that was being run by CEO Brian Chesky. The role was reportedly eyed by Laurence Tosi, the Wall Street veteran and former chief financial officer at Airbnb, who left the company in February after a clash with Chesky. Airbnb, which reported its first full-year profit in 2017, says there are 4.5 million homes listed on its platform globally.

Greeley joins Airbnb after almost two decades at Amazon, where he led international expansion and more recently Amazon Prime. As president of homes at Airbnb he will oversee the company’s existing listings, plus the newly launched Airbnb Plus (highly ranked rentals), Airbnb Collections (rentals designed for special occasions, like weddings), and loyalty programs for both hosts and guests. His challenge is to show Airbnb can still grow, after growth slowed in the US and Europe in 2017 on increased privacy concerns and a tougher regulatory environment.

To jumpstart growth, Airbnb has prioritized international markets, created new categories of listings like Plus and Collections, and moved into non-home offerings. The company is now technically organized into four divisions: Homes, Trips, Lux, and China. Trips includes tours and other activities that Airbnb calls “experiences,” while Lux is designed to compete with high-end rentals. Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk took over the China business last October.

Airbnb is hoping Greeley’s international experience at Amazon, where he led efforts in India, Brazil, and Australia, coupled with his time spent on the customer-obsessed Prime subscription program, will be a good match for the global travel company it is building. Airbnb, based in San Francisco, says the “overwhelming majority” of its listings are outside the US.

“Even among an amazing and diverse slate of candidates, Greg stood out for his phenomenal customer-first approach, global operations excellence, and a decades-long commitment to developing and mentoring talented leaders,” Chesky said in a press release, adding that Greeley was an “early adopter of home sharing.” Greeley announced his departure from Amazon yesterday on LinkedIn.

Amazon Prime is the jewel in Amazon’s massive global empire. The $99-a-year membership program gives tens of millions of consumers access to free two- and same-day shipping, streaming music, streaming video, and a laundry-list of other perks. While analysts had started to fear Prime’s growth was slowing, Amazon said during its fourth-quarter earnings that 2017 was the best year ever for new Prime signups, in the US and globally.

If Greeley can pull off a similar turnaround at Airbnb, it would be just what the company needs.

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