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Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi
REUTERS/Carlos Barria
“Today, there’s a general sense that while we’ve grown fast, we’ve slowed down.”
RED LIGHT

Uber is laying off one-third of its global marketing team

By Alison Griswold

Uber laid off more than 400 marketing employees today (July 29), a week before the ride-hail company is due to report second-quarter earnings.

The layoffs equal about 2% of Uber’s global staff but a third of its marketing team, which had more than 1,200 people before the cuts, an Uber spokesperson confirmed to Quartz. The layoffs are the largest at Uber since it was founded in 2009.

The cuts come less than three months after the company’s underwhelming debut on the New York Stock Exchange. Uber’s stock has traded mostly below its $45 IPO price since the May 10 listing, closing today at $43.88.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a note to staff, and shared with Quartz, that Uber needed to be able to “admit when we aren’t where we need to be as a company” and “get back on track.” “Today, there’s a general sense that while we’ve grown fast, we’ve slowed down,” he wrote. “This happens naturally as companies get bigger, but it is something we need to address, and quickly.”

Uber announced in June that Jill Hazelbaker, senior vice president of policy and communications, would also assume leadership of marketing. Hazelbaker said in her own note to staff today that her conversations with people in and outside of Uber since then made clear “that Marketing as it is today is not set up for success.” She cited unclear decision making, redundancies at the regional and country levels, and “deep dissatisfaction within the team,” based on internal Uber surveys.

A source familiar with the matter told Quartz that Uber employees are referring to the layoffs as the “marketing red wedding,” a reference to a massacre that takes place in Game of Thrones.

Uber has rarely cut employees in its 10-year history. The company laid off about 100 self-driving car operators—the people who monitored its driverless cars during road tests—in July 2018. Uber made those cuts as part of an overhaul of its driverless program after one of its cars struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona.

That the company is trimming staff now suggests it is under increased pressure as a public company to bring its spending in check. Uber lost $1 billion on $3.1 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2019. It spent $1 billion on sales and marketing in that quarter, up from $677 million in the first quarter of 2018.

Michael Coren contributed reporting.