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Airbnb shakes up management and revives IPO plans

Airbnb Inc

Airbnb shakes up management and revives IPO plans

Core rental business boss to leave as site sees bookings rebound after coronavirus disruption

Chief executive Brian Chesky said Catherine Powell, a former Walt Disney and BBC executive, would replace Greg Greeley as head of the travel site’s core accommodation rental unit © FT montage; Reuters

Airbnb has shaken up management and will revive plans to launch an initial public offering, as it continued to see signs of a rebound from heavy coronavirus-related disruption to its business.

“When the market is ready, we will be ready,” chief executive Brian Chesky wrote in an email to employees on Wednesday. He said an IPO could come this year. “We were down, but we’re not out.”

Mr Chesky’s message followed the announcement in a meeting with staff that Greg Greeley would step down as president of Homes, the company’s core accommodation rental business, two years after being recruited from Amazon.

Catherine Powell, who heads Airbnb’s Experiences product, will become head of Hosting, a newly created division that will incorporate both her existing areas and home-sharing.

Ms Powell is British and a former Walt Disney and BBC Worldwide executive who joined Airbnb at the beginning of this year.

Our business has not recovered, but we are seeing encouraging signs

Brian Chesky, Airbnb

“If we’re going to get back to our roots, we must get back to great hosting,” Mr Chesky said of the management changes.

Airbnb said this week it had seen guests place bookings for more than 1m nights in a single day for the first time since the global pandemic took hold. However, about half of these bookings were for locations less than 300 miles from guests’ homes, and the nightly rate was on average below $100.

“Our business has not recovered, but we are seeing encouraging signs,” the company said in a blog post. Earnings for hosts in rural areas were up 25 per cent in June compared to the same period last year.

However, in urban markets — such as Boston, Los Angeles and New York — bookings were still well down on last year, according to data from AirDNA, an independent analytics firm.

Airbnb blamed the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic when it shed 25 per cent of its workforce — 1,900 employees — in May as part of an effort to cut costs and refocus on its core business. The company also paused plans to integrate transportation options into its app, as well as efforts to create an in-house media studio to produce travel-related content. It scaled back investments in Hotels and Lux, its service aimed at high-end rentals.

Airbnb raised $2bn in debt in two equally sized deals from new investors in April, when it was apparent that travellers would be staying home for a prolonged period.

Mr Chesky said Mr Greeley was “an incredible partner to me, and I can’t thank him enough for everything I have learned from him”.

Of the IPO plan, he added: “We’re not committing to going public this year, but we’re not ruling it out.”

Mr Greeley could not be reached for comment.

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