Airbnb has hired Ron Klain as its new chief legal officer [Credit: Airbnb]

Airbnb hires former White House chief of staff as chief legal officer

US: Airbnb has announced the appointment of Democrat politician and former White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, as its chief legal officer, effective as of 1 January 2024.

With four decades of experience across government and business in the United States, Klain served as White House chief of staff to President Biden in his first two years in office. He held the same role to Biden when he was Vice President to President Obama and also to Vice President Al Gore at the age of 34 years old, making him the youngest chief of staff to a Vice President in American history.

Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, said: “Ron is both a big-picture strategic thinker and a highly skilled operator, and I’m thrilled he’ll be a close adviser. People have described Ron as one of the smartest people they’ve ever met, but more than his intelligence, he’s known for his excellent judgment and his big heart.

“Ron is the perfect addition to our team,” he added.

Klain, who will report directly to Chesky, has also represented a number of technology and marketplace businesses in complex litigation as a partner at law firm O’Melveny & Myers and held the position of chief legal officer at venture capital firm Revolution.

Klain said: “I have always believed that travel is such an important part of creating connection and cultural understanding, and I am honoured to join Airbnb to further this important work. Airbnb has accomplished so much already, and I’m especially inspired by Brian’s vision for the company’s next chapter. 

“I was proud to rejoin O’Melveny & Myers earlier this year and work with outstanding colleagues and clients, and I had planned to finish my career there, but the opportunity to work for Brian and join his incredible executive team was impossible to pass up,” he added.

Speaking to Axios, the newly appointed Airbnb chief legal officer said that he would continue supporting President Biden “on my own time and of my own accord” but confirmed that he would no longer do any TV appearances for next year’s US presidential campaign.

The appointment of Klain is intriguing, just 16 months after Airbnb recruited Jay Carney, a former colleague of Klain’s as White House press secretary for President Obama, as its global head of policy and communications. At the time of the hiring, Carney was tasked with leading on policy, enhancing communications and addressing regulatory concerns to “strengthen” the communities in which the platform has a presence.

Since Airbnb went public via a high-profile initial public offering [IPO] in late 2020, the company has come under sharpening scrutiny as more markets around the world implement restrictions on short-term rental listings.

Last month, the Biden administration voiced its concerns over ‘junk fees’ by proposing that businesses disclose all compulsory fees up front and banks should refrain from imposing excessive charges for basic information, thereby easing the strain on voters’ pockets. Biden himself name-checked Airbnb as a company that was displaying all of its prices up front, before a guest makes a booking.

In recent weeks, Airbnb has unveiled Guest Favorites and a new Listings tab as part of its annual Winter Release, and acquired AI stealth startup GamePlanner.AI for a deal reported to be just under $200 million. In its recent Q3 earnings report, the firm also revealed that it had over seven million active listings in total on its platform.

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