Rachel Whetstone, the former top public relations executive at Uber, is joining Facebook as vice-president of communications for Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.
Whetstone, a British public relations guru who worked for some of the UK’s most powerful Conservative politicians, stepped down as head of public policy and communications at Uber in April following a string of corporate scandals. Before Uber, Whetstone worked at Google as the head of communications and public policy.
“It’s a real privilege to be joining the Facebook family,” Whetstone said in a statement. “Products like WhatsApp have become an important part of my life – making it so much easier to stay in touch with my own family and friends.”
Whetstone, who was appointed chief of staff to Michael Howard in 2003 when he became the leader of the Conservative party, was one of several high-profile executives to leave Uber earlier this year amid a number of public relations crises. A former employee’s viral account of sexual harassment launched a major controversy surrounding claims of rampant sexism and discrimination within the company.
Before Whetstone’s departure, Uber was also dealing with negative press surrounding a video of CEO Travis Kalanick berating a driver, a high-stakes legal battle with Google surrounding the alleged theft of autonomous vehicle technology and revelations about secretive programs that Uber used to deceive regulators and spy on its rival.
During her tenure at Uber, Whetstone oversaw the response to a significant class action lawsuit from Uber drivers seeking to be classified as employees as well as a major dispute in California surrounding the company’s unpermitted rollout of autonomous vehicles, with a pilot that resulted in embarrassing footage of self-driving cars running red lights.
Whetstone did not comment on the scandals when she left Uber, unlike president Jeff Jones, who criticized the company in his departure, saying the “beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber”.
Whetstone is well-known in Westminster and is a friend of David Cameron and George Osborne. As Howard’s political secretary, she was a major player in Conservative politics when the party was up against Tony Blair’s Labour government. She left politics after Howard lost the general election in 2005.
Her role at Facebook is a newly created position, which will include overseeing communications for Instagram and WhatsApp, which are both owned by Facebook.
Caryn Marooney, Facebook’s vice-president of global communications, said in a statement: “We are thrilled Rachel will be joining us – she brings unique insight and leadership to an already world-class team. We’re excited to work with and learn from Rachel as we manage some of the world’s most interesting communications opportunities.”