The reshuffle of Airbnb's executive ranks should be viewed in the context of the need to reinvigorate the company's growth prospects, including international expansion.
With critics questioning Airbnb’s growth momentum, Airbnb announced Tuesday that Chief Financial Officer Dave Stephenson will become chief business officer, a newly created position, and VP of Finance Ellie Mertz will become CFO March 1.
Meanwhile, Catherine Powell, who became global head of hosting in July 2020, “has decided to transition to an advisor role and move on from Airbnb later next year,” the company said.
Stephenson will be leading all of the internal teams that reported to Powell other than the community team, and there are no plans to name a successor to Powell.
He will begin his new role as chief business officer January 2, will be a speaker, along with CEO Brian Chesky, on Airbnb’s fourth quarter and full-year 2023 earnings call in February, and Mertz will assume her new CFO March 1. She will be a regular speaker on earnings calls, along with Chesky, instead of Stephenson.
When the CFO transition takes place, Mertz will become a Section 16 officer of the company.
Airbnb Criticized for Missed Growth Opportunities
The CFO shuffle comes after some on Wall Street have become bearish about Airbnb after it warned that room night growth would be slowing in the fourth quarter. International expansion, which will be high on Stephenson’s agenda, is a key priority.
In an email to employees, which Airbnb shared with the media Tuesday morning, Chesky characterized Stephenson’s new role as a promotion. Chesky said “Airbnb is at an inflection point” and is ready to “embark as our next chapter as a company.”
Starting January 2, Stephenson will be in charge of expanding Airbnb’s core homes business, and will be charged with pushing international expansion, expanding Airbnb’s host supply, and overseeing corporate development. The heads of Airbnb’s business units in the Americas; Asia Pacific; and Europe, Middle East and Africa will report to Stephenson.
“As Airbnb gets bigger, the CFO’s job gets even more complicated,” said Skift Head of Research Seth Borko in reacting to the news. “In its early startup days, the CFO might prioritize cash management and VC fundraising. But where Airbnb stands today as an $86 billion public company, the CFO’s job is totally different. Public investors are a whole different animal from venture capitalists and the CFO must oversee a complex set of accounting books that are subject to securities law and other strict public company regulations.”
New Airbnb CFO
New CFO Ellie Mertz has been at Airbnb since 2013 and has served as its vp of finance since the beginning of 2019. She served as interim CFO for a year starting in February 2018 before Airbnb hired Stephenson as CFO. Chesky’s email to employees credited Mertz with overseeing Airbnb’s IPO.
Airbnb Global Head of Hosting to Leave the Company in 2024
Catherine Powell became global head of hosting in July 2020 after heading the company’s in-limbo experiences business for six months before that.
During the third quarter earnings call November 1, Chesky said the company had added 1 million active listings to date in 2023, and supply jumped 19% compared with the third quarter of 2022.
Powell’s hosting role ends December 31.
“Catherine Powell has decided to transition to an advisor role and move on from Airbnb later next year,” Chesky said in the employee email.
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Photo credit: Ellie Metz will become Airbnb's new CFO March 1. Source: Airbnb